A Blog About Cars ... And More
Friday July 28, 2017
AutoSketch: 1948 Divco Delivery Truck - Right To Your Doorstep!
It seems hard to believe in today's world of self-service-everything (they call it "self-service" because it sounds a lot better than what it really is: "no-service"), but there was a time in America when merchants actually brought goods right to your door - free.
Hucksters drove through neighborhoods in station wagons and pickup trucks, selling fresh meats, fruits and vegetables. Ice cream trucks prowled neighborhoods on hot summer afternoons. Milk and bakery goods were delivered early each morning - mostly in Divco delivery trucks.
Divco trucks were first produced in 1926 by the Detroit Industrial Vehicle Company. In 1938, the firm introduced the Model U which featured the familiar sloping nose, folding doors and stand and stand-up driving position. The U was Divco's most popular offering and continued with only minor design changes until ... (more >>>)
Gas 'n' Go: Thursday dawned cloudy and the sun didn't show up until afternoon. By 1:30 pm, the clouds had dissipated and the sun was shining. Temperature was a moderate 70 degrees. I drove to town, gassed up my '39 Plymouth coupe and took a back roads drive. The weather was pleasant as was the drive.
Mt. St. Helens gets more bare by the day. I had the windows down and played '50s rock-n-roll through the old coupe's twin speakers during my time behind the wheel.
A Free Ride For Jeff Bezos: Businesses who ship packages via the U.S. Postal Service get a form of government subsidy because the Postal Service delivers these packages at a loss. It's prices are lower than FedEx or UPS. That's why Amazon ships so many items via the post office.
An article in the Wall Street Journal noted that "this subsidy is speeding up the collapse of traditional retailers in the U.S. and providing an unfair advantage for Amazon."
"In 2001, the quantity of first-class mail in the U.S. began to decline thanks to the internet. Today it is down 40% from its peak levels, according to Postal Service data. But though there are fewer letters to put into each mailbox, the Postal Service still visits 150 million residences and businesses daily. With less traditional mail to deliver, the service has filled its spare capacity by delivering more boxes."
First-class mail effectively subsidizes package delivery (as well as junk mail), so the packages get a free ride. "An April analysis from Citigroup estimates that if costs were fairly allocated, on average parcels would cost $1.46 more to deliver. It is as if every Amazon box comes with a dollar or two stapled to the packing slip - a gift card from Uncle Sam."
Analysis of available data suggests that around two-thirds of Amazon's domestic deliveries are made by the Postal Service. It's as if Amazon gets dedicated, subsidized space on every mail truck.
Twenty years ago, Jeff Bezos was selling books online from his garage. Today, he is the richest person on Earth - helped by the taxpayer-supported U.S. Postal Service.
Book Review: 'The Jersey Brothers: A Missing Naval Officer in the Pacific and His Family's Quest to Bring Him Home' by Sally Mott Freeman
This is the extraordinary story of the three Mott brothers of New Jersey and their experiences in the U.S. Navy during World War II. The author is the daughter of one of the brothers and she was born well after the war ended. Here knowledge of the war is deep and, as far as I could tell, impeccable - given that she spent 10 years researching this book.
Interwoven in the brother's biographies is this history of the war itself - the fighting, the planning, the inter-branch military disputes and the effects of the war on civilian lives, especially the life of the boys' mother.
This book is no friend of ... (more >>>)
You May Not Know Her Name ... but you've probably heard her voice many times: Voice actress June Foray has died at age 99. She was the voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel and his nemesis, Natasha Fatale ("If moose and squirrel are not vatching"), and Midnight the Cat ("Nice!") on 'The Buster Brown Show'. She also did a variety of voices in Walter Lantz's Woody Woodpecker cartoons, including Woody's nephew and niece, Knothead and Splinter. In 1960, she provided the speech for Mattel's original Chatty Cathy doll.
June did voices on shows such as 'The Simpsons', 'Our Miss Brooks' and countless Disney and Warner Bros. cartoons. RIP.
Headline Of The Week is from The People's Cube: DNC to pick new election slogan out of these finalists: 'Give us more government or everyone dies,' 'Vote for Democrats or everyone dies,' 'Impeach Trump or everyone dies,' 'Stop the fearmongering or everyone dies'.
Quote Of The Day is from Mark Twain: "If you don't read the newspaper, you are uninformed. If you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed."
Wednesday July 26, 2017
Goin' Asian: Recently, Peter De Lorenzo wrote, "Last month it became official: Cadillac now sells more cars in the Chinese market than here in the U.S., and that is a reality that isn't going to change, in fact it will only pick up speed in the coming years. A sign of the times? Sure, all rational thought simply points to the fact that the Chinese market is destined to be the dominant transportation market for decades to come.
But I see it as the death of one of the most storied automotive legacies in automotive history. And even though the Cadillac office in New York is filled with wonderful emblems and tchotchkes from Cadillac's past to great effect, none of it really matters anymore.
Will Cadillac still be here? Certainly. But make no mistake, the Chinese market will dictate the future direction and composition of the brand."
Peter's probably right about China, especially since that's where GM is placing its bets. Buicks and Caddys are big sellers over there. But, to be fair ... (more >>>)
How Many Summers? Some fifteen years ago or so, I visited a custom car builder in Portland as part of a car club meet. The owner used to do restorations of classic cars - Cords, Packards and the like - but he switched to creating high-end, custom resto-rods because the profits were better and, unlike many of his classic car customers, the resto-rod patrons never ran out of money in the middle of the job.
When I was there, he was doing a Chevy Nomad, coupling a clean '55 wagon with an almost-new Corvette that had been rolled. The Nomad was sectioned and slightly chopped and the Corvette frame was stretched and narrowed to fit the Nomad's revised body. Finished price was around half-a-million bucks. His typical customer was a wealthy, aging California tech wizard who wanted to relive his somewhat-to-mostly fictional dream youth.
Speed of completion was far more important than cost. Said the contract designer hired for this job: These guys are feeling the weight of age upon them and ask, "How many summers have I got left?" Indeed.
I ask myself that same question from time to time; that's why I try to take as many drives in my '39 Plymouth coupe as I can. So, when Tuesday dawned bright and sunny, I said, "Let's go."
At 10:40 am, the temperature was already 69 degrees and the sun was blazing with a background of clear blue skies and a bit of summer haze. Later in the day, temperatures topped out at 90. I had a good drive - except for the idiot in the Dodge Charger who pulled out to pass on a two-lane 50 mph road and almost hit me head-on. Jerk. Don't mess with my summer, bozo.
I Predict That, By 2040, We'll All Be Driving Potato Trucks: A recent article in TTAC by Matt Posky suggested that, if everyone drove electric cars, the world would quickly deplete its lithium supply - needed for those lithium ion batteries.
The U.S. isn't blessed with much in the way of lithium reserves. Chile, China, Argentina and Australia have over 90% of the world's reserves of the element.
Recently, Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasted that sales of electric light-duty vehicles (passenger cars, pickups, and SUV/crossovers) will rise from around 1% in 2016 to 54% of all vehicle sales by 2040. By that time, one-third of the entire global fleet will be electrified. France plans to end sales of diesel and gas cars by 2040.
There won't be enough lithium batteries to go around. Remember when you were in elementary school and made a battery out of a potato? That might be your EV power source in a lithium-scarce environment. Idaho and Ireland may soon rule the world.
Wizards versus Muggles: According to Jack Baruth, all those Harry Potter books and movies are simply rich liberals' fantasies of class war, "written in class-conscious Britain by a welfare queen whose dimly-perceived ideas, received third-hand from tabloids, regarding upper-class life would only really make sense to most readers if they were framed by dragons and special magic."
An admirer of the upper class, powerful titans of finance and the nouveau riche, 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." They don't want to hang out with regular people because of their snobbish disdain and their vulnerable underbellies.
Jack observed, "Our putative superiors ... in the Ivy League absolutely yearn for a regression to an ordered class society where the proles in their lifted Ram trucks and Tapout apparel have to cross the street or be horsewhipped for insolence. They have no appetite for democracy. Why should they? ... democracy is just another way of giving the "Muggles" a voice in public affairs. What could be worse than letting the Muggles from West Virginia or the Inland Empire have a say in their own fates? You might as well let the Muggles judge the flying-broomstick "Quidditch" games, for Christ's sake."
While I've never read a single Harry Potter book, I get the idea. It's not exactly a new one. The common people, the unmagical Muggles, have always been looked down upon by their Betters, which is fine if you're a Better with money and power. Vance Packard's 1959 best seller, 'The Status Seekers', did an excellent job dissecting American social stratification and behavior. As did Paul Fussell's wonderful 1984 book, 'Class', which was even better, with its scalpel-like approach to eviscerating conventional wisdom about American society's caste levels.
This is a fairy-tale elitist impulse ... (more >>>)
Am I The Only One Who Thinks This? Have you visited The Onion lately? It seems to have lost all its funny somewhere along the line.
Quote Of The Day is from John Adams: "In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a Congress."
Monday July 24, 2017
Early Cruise: On Saturday, I decided to take an early drive in my '39 Plymouth business coupe before the traffic got heavy and the temperatures got hot. At 8:00 am, it was already 61 degrees and the skies were cloudless and bright simmer blue. By afternoon, the temperature reached 90 degrees.
Traffic was very light and Mt. St. Helens is rapidly losing its winter snow.
I had the windows down and played '50s American rock-n-roll through the old coupe's twin speakers during my travels. Good drive.
Homeworked: One of the more interesting cars destined for this year's Monterey auction is a Ghia-bodied 1953 Abarth Sport 1100. While Pebble Beach is full of professionally-restored vehicles with restoration bills in the millions, this beauty was "restored in an owner's garage, then hauled cross-country in a borrowed trailer towed by a friends truck." In 2015, the Abarth "won the Postwar Early class, on its way to being named as a finalist (one of three) for Best of Show." Now, this one-of-a-kind Abarth is heading to auction, at no reserve, part of RM Sotheby's upcoming Monterey sale.
Ghia first exhibited this car at ... (more >>>)
Happy Birthday ... to my lovely and loving wife, who for the next twelve days, is the same age as me.
Her broken arm is healing nicely and she's back to driving herself. She looks almost the same as she did at age five, except for the banana curls:
Book Review: 'Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis' by J.D. Vance
Here's how this book begins: "My name is J.D. Vance, and I think I should start with a confession: I find the existence of the book you hold in your hands somewhat absurd. It says right there on the cover that it's a memoir, but I'm thirty-one years old, and I'll be the first to admit that I've accomplished nothing great in my life, certainly nothing that would justify a complete stranger paying money to read about it." He's right. You'd be nuts to pay 16 bucks for this sob story, peddled by the publisher as "riveting .. inspirational and essential reading."
First - a disclaimer. My only experience with hillbillies was when I watched a few minutes of 'Hee-Haw' many years ago. That said, there's nothing unique about Vance's story because it's not really about hillbillies. It's about any group of poor people, who have limited options because of dysfunctional family situations, lack of education, bad decisions, drugs, and/or an inability to adapt to a changing world. Similar stories could have been found in hypothetical books such as 'Ghetto Elegy', 'Rust Belt Elegy', 'Biggest Employer Left Small Town Elegy', etc.
This 272-page book is said to be ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Tom McMahon: "When I was young & first heard about a "pre-nuptual agreement" I thought it was what you had to sign before she would show you her nuptuals."
Thursday July 20, 2017
The Fall Of St. Elon: If you want to read a well-written takedown of Tesla and its peculiar leader, you'll find it here.
Francesco Segredo begins, "Under Elon Musk's leadership Tesla's Model X arrived two years late and subjected the company to six months of self described production hell, only to tie for last place in Consumer Reports' luxury SUV ratings with a score of 59/100 (Nov. 2016). Delays for the falcon-winged albatross will allow the Chevy Bolt and second-generation Nissan Leaf to both beat the Model 3 to widespread availability by the end of the year. Tesla's quality has been poor, the UAW is circling, and Mr. Musk recently tweeted about mixing alcohol and Ambien (zolpidem) - a drug combination not only dangerous in its own right, but that increases the risk of long-term zolpidem addiction. How is this man still Tesla's CEO?"
I've been a critic of the electrified scam known as Tesla for years. I've previously referred to this government-funded disaster as Solyndra On Wheels. And, don't forget, Tesla still loses money on every vehicle it produces.
Furthermore ... (more >>>)
Car Sightings: Tuesday was white day. Spotted a nice white '57 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible getting on I5 southbound just as I was getting off. Also saw two white Fiat 500s within a few miles of each other. One was quite dusty and had out-of-state plates; the other had WA plates and sparkled.
Saw a new red Honda Civic sedan. Remember when Civics were little cars? This one is over 182 inches long. My wife's 1987 Accord, purchased new - was only 178 inches long. My brother's 1975 Civic was only 150 inches long.
Speaking of small cars, I also spotted a 2016 or so Chevrolet Sonic five-door hatch in yellow. I'm sure they're available in many colors but every one I see is either yellow or blue. Sonic hatches are 159 inches long and almost five feet tall. Spotted a bright green last-gen Smart car with a black roof toddling down Route 500 in Vancouver. At 106 inches in length - well, now that's small. Later I saw a car with Lyft stickers on it - a puny (172-inch long) Toyota Yaris. I wouldn't want to ride in the back seat of that.
To end with another white car posting, I had lunch with my friend Steve P. on Wednesday. He showed me his newly-acquired, snow-white 2015 Mercedes-Benz SL 550 two-seater retractable hardtop roadster. This gorgeous beast is powered by a 429 horsepower, 4.7-liter, twin-turbo V8 fitted to a 7-speed automatic transmission. Sweet.
When Elites Fall In Love: Charles Murray described the wedding announcements section of the New York Times as the "Mergers and Acquisitions" page, since it "almost uniformly features a Stanford MBA junior investment banker on Wall Street marrying a Harvard law grad working as an associate at Big Firm on Madison Ave., while rehabbing three Brooklyn brownstones for themselves in between teaching refugees to read while riding a unicycle."
Book Review: 'Creative Industries Of Detroit: The Untold Story of Detroit's Secret Concept Car Builder' by Leon Dixon
In the 1970s, I spent time in the Detroit area, working with automotive manufacturers and their suppliers. The industrial sections of the metro area were chock full of small companies which made their living supplying components and services to the Big Three automakers. These thousands of firms were unknown to the public at large. Creative Industries was one of them.
This book is about the many achievements of Creative, including behind the scenes looks at some well-known prototypes, concept cars and limited-production vehicles. Company owners Fred Johnson and Rex Terry are profiled within the pages. Both were amazing entrepreneurs who built their company by intensely focusing on the needs of their transport-related clients. And offering solutions to unanticipated problems.
The majority of the book looks at the postwar period through the 1960s. Readers will learn ... (more >>>)
Racist Shit: I've never had a reason to use this phrase before ... but it seems that there's a time and place for everything these days: "Seattle councilman Larry Gossett isn't a fan of one solution to power wash the feces from the sidewalks to tamp down on the smell. Power washing the sidewalks is too reminiscent of civil rights activists being hosed down, he said." Shades of Bull Connor.
Such 'deposits' by protestors and the homeless means the "smell of urine and excrement have gotten so bad outside a King County courthouse that two judges are scrambling to find ways to fix the situation."
"The area around the courthouse is surrounded by a homeless shelter and other social service organizations. Multiple assaults, harassment and drugs have been reported to the police in the area near the courthouse. Jurors have taken to asking judges to release them from jury duty and two jurors have been assaulted over the past two months."
My solution: Vaporize the crap with high-powered lasers and threaten to turn the lasers on the homeless if they don't leave town right now. Problem solved.
PS: Bull Connor - Commissioner of Public Safety for Birmingham, Alabama - was a member of the Democratic National Committee. An unabashed racist, he set dogs and firehoses on civil rights protesters in the 1960s.
Mark Zuckerberg's Middle Name Is Beelzebub: Social media giant Facebook blocked more than two dozen conservative Catholic pages in a 24-hour period, some with millions of followers, saying only they were "suspected of suspicious activities." Sounds like the Know Nothing Party of the 1840s. Or the Devil.
"Facebook seemed to target only conservative Catholic pages with a significant following, since almost all had between hundreds of thousands and up to six million followers."
If Zuckerberg did this to two dozen Muslim pages, his throat would probably be slit within a week.
Say It Ain't So: Snagglepuss, the pink cartoon mountain lion featured in 'The Yogi Bear Show' beginning back in 1961 is being retooled for the 21st Century by DC Comics as a gay, Southern playwright.
"Heavens to Murgatroyd!" Tennessee Williams is probably rolling in his grave.
Quote Of The Day is from Henny Youngman: "When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading."
Tuesday July 18, 2017
Construction Break: Because there are no road crews and flaggers working on Saturday, I decided to take a drive in my '39 Plymouth before the workers returned on Monday. I've asked around the neighborhood and no one seems to know what these crews are doing.
Just before 8:00 am, I backed my old coupe out of the garage took off. The temperature was in the mid-50s, it was sunny with bright blue, cloudless skies tinged with a little morning haze. I had a good drive. Later in the day, the thermometer hit a summery 80 degrees.
On Monday, I drove the Plymouth to the library to exchange some books. At 10:00 am, the skies were blue with puffy cartoon clouds and the temperature was in the mid-60s. Lucky for me, I got through the flaggers in a minute or so, despite the signs warning - too late - of delays of up to 20 minutes. I took a short back roads cruise afterward. Fun drive, as usual.
Speaking of construction, I spent time Friday working on my O-gauge train layout. When we moved the platform back to the garage for storage in early March, one of the casters sheared off. When my kids were here for Father's Day, we rotated the platform 90 degrees so that I could work on it. I repaired the wood using epoxy, remounted the errant caster and sealed the repaired area with heavy-duty, clear polyester packing tape. The gang will be here in a few weeks and we'll rotate the platform back to its normal storage position.
Putting All Chips On Red: Volvo announced that beginning with the 2019 model year, every new Volvo car will come with an electric engine. That does not mean the company will be only electric cars, only that some electrification will be available on all cars."
The company said that it plans to introduce a "portfolio of electrified cars across its model range, embracing fully electric cars, plug-in hybrid cars and mild hybrid cars."
Paul Ausick wrote, "In one sense, what's Volvo got to lose? U.S. sales sank 15% year over year in June to just 7,303 units. Global retail sales rose 5.7% to 54,351 units for the month, with sales in China, the company's largest market, totaling just 10,113 units. Sales in Sweden were essentially flat at 7,246 units." Volvo has always been a niche brand, favored by self-absorbed yuppies with an alleged intellectual bent and lefty professor-types.
Down At The Shore ... 2017 Edition: My brother recently returned from a Wildwood Crest, NJ vacation. Knowing that my wife and I enjoy all things Jersey shore-related, he sent us numerous editions of those pulp giveaway shoppers' guides to the New Jersey shore. I reported on the 2016 editions last year. The 2015 report is posted here; the 2014 survey can be found here.
I love the tacky ads, unique offerings and the crazy business names. Businesses at the Jersey Shore have only three months to make their money for the year, so they promote cleverly, creatively and often. There's lots of East Coast chutzpah found in their ads. Here are some things that caught my eye this year ... (more >>>)
Old Music: Recently, Charles G. Hill posted a recording of a 1959 novelty song I had never heard of. This was a surprise, since - being a lad of 16 at the time - I spent many of my waking hours listening music.
The record is a parody of Soviet-style broadcasting: 'Russian Band Stand' by Spencer and Spencer. "One of those Spencers is King of Novelty Dickie Goodman. (Side note: We had a temp who, after listening to about half an hour of my iTunes install, told me there was one record I couldn't possibly have: this one. I duly jumped it to the front of the shuffle. He was gone after a few days.)"
In the 1950s, it was common for regional versions of a song to become hits in various parts of the country. 'Butterfly', a 1957 hit for Andy Williams, can't hold a candle to the 1956 Charlie Gracie version released on Philadelphia's Cameo Records label. It was a far bigger hit in the NY-NJ-Philly universe than the lame Williams rendition. Charlie's version sold over two million records. But when Charlie sued his record label Cameo, which had an "affiliation" with Dick Clark in those payola days, the label got Charlie blacklisted from radio plays and 'American Bandstand'. Goodbye, Charlie.
The first time I ever heard ... (more >>>)
RIP: Martin Landau, the tall, intense actor best known for his role in the 1960s television series 'Mission: Impossible' has died at age 89. Mr. Landau starred on the hit CBS drama as Rollin Hand, a versatile covert-operations agent, from its debut in 1966 until '69.
After the show's third season, Landau and Barbara Bain, his wife and co-star, left because of a contractual dispute. MI was must-see TV for me back in the day, but the show quickly went downhill after the couple departed.
Landau earned an Academy Award nomination for his role as New York financier Abe Karatz in the 1988 movie, 'Tucker: The Man and His Dream'. His performance in the supporting role of Bela Lugosi in 'Ed Wood' (1994) earned him an Academy Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award and a Golden Globe Award.
Thought For Today: Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
Friday July 14, 2017
Happy Motoring: Gerard Van der Leun drives an older big Mercedes-Benz (1985-91 era) and enjoys the power: "We come over a rise in my red Mercedes 560 SEL and see curling out before us between the forests a rolling S-curve of smooth asphalt arcing down the valley and then up and over the hill far beyond and gone. My passenger, skilled in racing very large motorcycles very well, looks at it and says, "That's the road motorcyclists dream of. Perfectly banked and perfectly curved with a long, long sight line and no oncoming traffic."
I nod and give it the gas. The turbocharger kicks in. The car leaps forward with a growl. The forest outside becomes a green blur. We sweep down and around, up and over the hill.
We pin the speedometer. And we're gone.
I pity the future for a lot of reasons, but I really pity that future that will no longer be able to know the pure pleasures of personal speed."
There is something wonderful about a big motor with lots of low-end grunt, that makes a car "get up and scoot," as my wife's late uncle Bert used to say.
Gerard concluded, "I pity my descendants who will never be able to look out at some sweeping mountain road, perfectly curved, perfectly banked, with no oncoming traffic and just "Give it the gas.""
That's why I love my V8 cars.
Have You Ever Clicked On An Online Ad? Me Neither. Unilever is threatening to pull online ad campaigns stating that they believe half or more of the "clicks" are fraud Karl Denninger points a finger at Facebook, noting that nobody "has an incentive on a platform like Facebook, where posters do not get a cut of the revenue, to stick an army of robots out there and click the ads, except for Facebook itself. This is decidedly not true for Google's "Adsense" platform of course, or Youtubes, or whoever else where publishers get a piece of pie. There, if your traffic is high enough, there's an economic incentive to cheat."
Anyone who uses the internet regularly has trained their eyes to simply ignore online ads. The general question, "Does Advertising Work At All?", is not easily answered. As I've written before: It depends. And: It depends.
Book Review: The Man Who Designed The Future: Norman Bel Geddes and the Invention of Twentieth-Century America' by B. Alexandra Szerlip
The jacket blurb for this book opened thusly: "Before there was Steve Jobs, there was Norman Bel Geddes." This was my first clue that disappointment might lie ahead. Bel Geddes was an innovative theatrical set and lighting designer, who revolutionized stage plays in the 1920s. He later moved on to industrial design, styling radios, kitchen ovens and the 1934 Electrolux refrigerator. His most notable accomplishment was Futurama, the spectacular General Motors exhibit at the 1939-40 New York World's Fair. But Norman Bel Geddes never came up with market-disruptive, insanely-great, industry-changing products the way Steve Jobs did.
I'm no expert in design history but I found numerous mistakes ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Dave Barry: "Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza."
Wednesday July 12, 2017
Fifty-Five Grand Loser: $55,000?! Are you kidding? Sometimes I really feel out of it when it comes to how much cars now cost. Recently MotorWeek did a seven-vehicle comparison test of small luxury sedans. The price cap was $55,000. Most of the cars were in the $50-55K range. Jeeeez. I remember when I bought my new Lexus LS, the little IS model was priced just over $30K. Then I realized that was almost 10 years ago. Nevertheless, I was shocked that all these 2017 model-year, entry-level luxury compacts were so expensive.
Of the cars tested, here's how they ranked from worst to best: Lexus IS 200t, Jaguar XE 25t, Cadillac ATS, BMW 330i, Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic, Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti AWD and, at top spot: Audi A4 quattro S Tronic.
With Alfa placing second, I guess that the testers from MotorWeek and Cars.com didn't give any marks for reliability, since Alfa has axquired a very bad rep. In any case, the little Lexus came in last, probably not helped by that angry, cheese-grater grille. It may be a loser to the motoring press but, for owners, it will be a relatively trouble-free car compared to its competition.
During the same show, MW did a QickSpin in a 2017 Aston Marton DB11, which replaces the DB9. What a gorgeous machine - it looked like a concept car. It has a 600 horsepower twin-turbo V12 engine. Prices start around $215,000 - about the same as four Alfa Romeo Giulias.
"You Shake my Nerves And You Rattle my Brain..." When I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe on Tuesday, the speakers were playing Jerry Lee Lewis' 1957 hit, 'Great Balls Of Fire'. The 'rattle my brain' lyric was an ominous sign.
There is road construction near our neighborhood and the street is lumpy, bumpy and covered with metal plates here and there. My Plymouth, with it's amateur-engineered subframe and rear suspension mods, doesn't like unsmooth surfaces and it jolts me around more than usual.
There are flaggers and delays, neither of which I enjoy. But, it was good driving weather - July-gorgeous, in fact - an all-blue sky with puffy Johnson & Johnson cotton-ball clouds here and there and a comfortable temperature of 60 degrees at 9:30 am.
Once I got past the construction zone, I had a very enjoyable old car drive. By afternoon, temperatures had reached 79 degrees.
Doing God's Work: Kathy Shaidle recently wrote about the Sisters of Life, a convent of young, ultra-conservative Catholic nuns that was founded in New York in 1991, and expanded to Canada in 2007. Sisters of Life is a female Roman Catholic religious institute, following the Augustinian rule. It is both a contemplative and active religious community.
"At the age of 29 - young for a nun in modern times - Sister John Mary committed herself to lifelong vows of poverty, obedience and chastity. The habit that she wears, sews and washes herself is a sign of her commitment in what she calls today's 'post-Christian culture'."
"As our culture seeks to exclude God, we are attracted by a radical response to God," said Sister John Mary.
The Sisters of Life is one of the few ... (more >>>)
Clueless Chelsea: Recently, Ol' Remus took aim at Chelsea Clinton, the wealthy, not-too-swift spawn of Bill and Hill. He referred to her as a "self-parody, rich as baklava, nothing can be added or subtracted to improve it, proof hothouse plants can be trained, if only to celebrate themselves. To be fair, Miss Chelsea excels at self-satisfied yet bewildered facial expressions, sincere enough, but reminiscent of hit-and-run drivers who don't remember anything about last night. It's understandable, she's a pleasantly retarded woman-child floating in a froth created by a hard woman, a life's simulacrum where wishes are needs and needs are met, hence the Thousand Nanometer Stare."
Don Surber added, "Must be nice to have no job and be able to weekend in the Hamptons anyway. That is the life of Chelsea Clinton and husband Marc Mezvinsky. Her father was an impeached president. His father was a congressman who went to prison in 2003 after pleading guilty to 31 felony charges of bank fraud, mail fraud, and wire fraud. He served five years. The two are professional moochers."
Don't forget that Chelsea reportedly made $900,000 or so working part-time for the Clinton Foundation. And, she's got a couple of cash-up-front book deals. Nice work if you can get it.
Money and political legacy mixed with idiocy - I think professionals call that combo the Caroline Kennedy Syndrome.
Bad Pun Of The Day: What do you call a fish with no eyes? A fsh.
Monday July 10, 2017
Need For Speed? Or Just A Need For Bragging Rights? Recently Dan Neil reviewed the 2017 Jaguar F-Type SVR Coupe, He described it as "yet another hella expensive exotic sports car that can hit 200 mph."
He noted that "another 200-mph sports car doesn't rank very high in the needs of a troubled world. And reasonable minds might ask, To what end? After all, there are only a handful of places in the world where any automobile, in the best of circumstances, can touch those speeds."
Did Mr. Neil drive the Jag that fast? No. "I would also require diplomatic immunity and a set of X-rayed, Bibendum-approved Michelins. Failing these circumstances, the SVR's Vmax will remain theoretical and unobservable.
Let's confront the absurdity head-on: Jaguar knows none of its customers will attempt 200 mph in this car. No racetrack is straight enough, or long enough. And on open roads such a pass would be a highly fraught exercise, which so little a thing as a ground squirrel could bring to a fireballing end. Top speed claims are purely for the convenience of materialistic men comparing their inseams. We call them connoisseurs."
But, there's the bragging rights: "Ya know, this Jag-O-Mine will do 200 mph." In order to do that, you'll have to spend $126,945 to put this 575 horsepower beast in your garage.
Dan noted that you'll have to make some sacrifices in comfort: "Does a 200-mph top speed automatically make a car better? In the day to day, often not. Loud, rough, stiff - and that's just the SVR's 200-mph-approved Michelins, with special heat-dissipating properties. The car's chassis is yet stiffer and more vivid, with new lightweight die-cast rear knuckles, revised spring/damper rates and tuned anti-roll bars. I love taking a drive in the country and returning with blood in my pee."
Let's face it, how many people have driven at 200 mph? Not me. The fastest I've ever driven is 125 mph - on an empty interstate in northern Montana. I've driven over the century mark maybe four or five times in my entire life. And I'm old enough not to need 200 mph bragging rights. On the other hand, your needs may differ.
"It's Summertime, Summertime, Sum-sum-summertime ..." The Jamies' 1958 musical earwig can get inside your head, displacing more and more rational thought until you become a drooling moron. That's why I don't have the song in my iTunes library.
The tune has been used in commercials for Buick, Ken-L Ration Burger Time Dog Food and Applebee's. I have seen Buicks driven by elderly, drooling morons and I have observed them pulling into the parking lots of many an abominable Applebee's. So there. (Well ... that's better than staying home and eating Ken-L Ration Burger Time Dog Food, I guess.)
In any case, Saturday was definitely summertime, as any solstice-attending Druid can readily confirm. The weather was summery - 62 degrees and bright with slightly-hazy azure skies at 9:45 am. Mt. St. Helens is losing more snow every day. The base is now snow-free and, even near the top, the snow is showing crevasse-like depressions.
It was definitely time to take a drive in my '39 Plymouth business coupe. And I did. I drove with windows down with '50s rock-n-roll playing through the speakers. But not 'It's Summertime':
Obama's Kids: Nearly 30% of the illegal immigrant children the U.S. is holding in its dormitories have ties to criminal gangs, suggesting that the Obama-era surge of Central Americans has fed the country's growing problem with MS-13 and other gangs.
"It is well-known that MS-13 actively targets and recruits children as young as 8 years old," said Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican and chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
Build that wall.
Book Review: 'The Making Of The President 2016 - How Donald Trump Orchestrated a Revolution' by Roger Stone
Political journalist and historian Theodore H. White once owned the term 'The Making of the President', writing in-depth books about the 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976 and 1980 presidential elections. While Mr. White was a Democrat, he tried his best to mask his political leanings and report accurately. Of course, in the 1960s, most Democrats were centrists and not that different from Republicans. Campaign insiders were happy to talk candidly with Mr. White because they felt he would report things fairly.
Fast-forward to today. Theodore White is long-dead and campaign insiders are ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Jean Kerr: "I'm tired of all this nonsense about beauty being only skin-deep. That's deep enough. What do you want - an adorable pancreas?"
Friday July 7, 2017
June Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were at a 16.42 million SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate) in June, down 3% from a year ago and down 1% from last month. Crossovers and pickup truck sales are reasonably healthy but car sales are dropping like a bowling ball off a tall building. The first six months of 2017 were bumpy for vehicle sales, setting a bleak tone for the summer selling season.
Auto incentives have risen to a record average of $3,661. Fortunately for manufacturers, consumers seem willing to pay higher prices, with June transaction prices estimated at $31,720. Edmunds.com said that the average length of a car loan reached an all-time high of 69.3 months in June. "It's financially risky, leaving borrowers exposed to being upside down on their vehicles for a large chunk of their loans," said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds' executive director of industry analysis.
General Motors sales fell 5% compared with June 2016. Cadillac sales decreased 12% to 11,854 units. Caddy sold 1,014 of its flagship CT6 sedan last month. Total Chevrolet deliveries in June dropped by 6% year-over-year to 169,842 units. In June, Chevy sold 1,425 Bolts - its all-electric compact. Buick saw a year-over-year sales jump of 16%. The Chinese-made Buick Envision small crossover experienced a whopping gain of 101% over last year, selling 5,007 units.
Ford Motor Co. vehicle sales dropped 5%. Cars fell 23%, while SUVs increased 3% and trucks climbed 1%. F-Series pickup sales increased 10%. 33% of FoMoCo sales are to fleets. Sales of the Lincoln brand rose 5% year-over-year; 973 Lincoln Continentals found buyers last month. Sales of the Lincoln MKC small crossover increased by 16% - 2,304 found homes.
Fiat-Chrysler experienced a June sales decrease of 7%. Jeep sales fell 11% overall; Jeep Patriot sales dropped a whopping 55% and the Cherokee posted a sales drop of 27%. Ram trucks were up 5%, Dodge brand sales dropped 14% to 42,550 vehicles and the Chrysler brand fell 15% to 19,741 vehicles. Fiat sales declined 4% to 2,242 units, while Alfa Romeo sold 1,017 vehicles in June.
Toyota sales rose 2% versus June 2016. RAV4 sales jumped 25%, while the larger 4Runner SUV, rose 17% last month.
Hyundai sales were down 22%; I wonder which executive will be fired next? Kia sales were off 10%. Over a quarter of all Hyundai's total volume can be attributed to fleet sales. Subaru now claims 67 consecutive months of growth, including a sales jump of 12% in June. VW sales increased 15% last month, while Volvo and Mazda sales slid 15% each. Honda sales dropped 1%, while Nissan sales rose 1%. Mini sales fell 10% to 4,410 units.
In the luxury field, Acura sales were up 24% Infiniti increased 11%, Mercedes-Benz was up 2% to 32,102 vehicles, BMW sales were flat and Lexus sales fell 5% to 24,395 vehicles. Lexus only sold 300 of its flagship LS sedans in June.
Bentley sales jumped 51% to 218 units, almost as many as the Smart - only 226 of those peculiar little soon-to-be all-electric cars found homes last month, a year-over-year drop of 45%. This week, AutoBlog tested an all-electric 2018 model and quipped that "the brand has not learned anything, but simply converted their previous losing formula to run on electricity." Tester Brett Berk wrote that Smart is a "recipe of small, uncomfortable, homely, cheap, uninspired, inefficient, overpriced, subpar, fun-colored, rear-engine city vehicles." Wow - no wonder so few are sold.
Helping America's Trade Balance: Phil LeBeau of CNBC reported that "BMW will add 1,000 jobs and invest $600 million in its plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The investment will boost annual production to as many as 450,000 vehicles annually. The plant is already the company's largest final assembly plant in the world and had employed more than 9,000."
BMW Manufacturing exported a record 287,700 BMW models from the Spartanburg plant during 2016. Approximately 86% were exported through the Port of Charleston with an export value of $9.53 billion, according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce. The South Carolina factory is the leading U.S. automotive exporter.
Peter DeLorenzo is critical of BMW's "long, slow slide into mediocrity," but the fact is that, as an automaker, you've got to respond to what buyers' want.
Peter longs for the days of the 2002Ti but BMW sold relatively few cars to Americans in those days. He laments, "BMW was no longer building 'Ultimate Driving Machines' - instead they were building facsimiles of what the brand once stood for designed to extract as much money from consumers as possible. Yes, there were certainly some standout M cars unleashed over the years that reminded enthusiasts of how great BMW used to be, but for the most part BMW had traded in its hard-won authenticity for a volume play based on faux representations of what the brand once was, all for $699 (and up) per month."
The fact is that pricey and profitable small SUVs lusted after by image-seeking soccer moms is what keeps BMW alive and able to produce exotic but money-losing M-Series vehicles for the cognoscenti. That's the way business and life works. In June, Americans bought 4,589 X5 SUVs, 3,566 X3 models and 3,221 X1s. Those 11,376 soccer moms must be served by someone - it might as well be BMW, Peter.
Some Like It Hot: Las Vegas in July can feel like the Fourth Circle of Hell; that's why most people stay indoors where it's air-conditioned.
In mid-July, the Association of Woodworking and Furnishings Suppliers (AWFS) holds North America's biggest woodworking show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Tons of equipment will be on display and demonstrated. John Ratzenberger is this year's keynote speaker.
This year, the conference will have a Plastics Program with emphasis on plastics fabrication. The meeting will even offer a Closet Symposium, moderated by 'Million Dollar Closets' television host Lisa Adams. (No, I never heard of her or the show, either.) The exhibition offers dozens of seminars, including one titled 'The Millennial Woodworker'. There is also a category called Wood Whisperer. M-kay.
Quote Of The Day is from Jeremy Clarkson on environmentalists: "I do wish these people would take up something useful. Like tearing their own tongues out. ... Greenpeace has taken a long hard look at the world. It has noted the alarming emergence of Islamic extremism, and the corruption in Africa. It's logged the oppression in Burma and the slaughter in the Middle East. And it has decided that something must be done ... about your patio heater."
Wednesday July 5, 2017
Fiat Makes Crap Cars ... But You Already Knew That, Right? In the J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Initial Quality Study, Fiat ranked dead last, behind 32 other major car brands. The measure was based on problems per 100 vehicles. The industry average was 97. Fiat's figure was 163, well above any other brand.
"This is not Fiat's first brush with poor grades from J.D. Power. It has fallen at or near the bottom of several of the research firm's auto studies in the past several years. At the same time, Fiat has struggled with U.S. sales. It fared very poorly at Consumer Reports, too.
From January through May, Fiat sales fell 14% to 12,440. In May, they fell 14% to 2,670. In other words, Fiat only sold 90 cars per day in May. It is often the car that dealers have to hold the longest after receiving units from the factory."
Despite Fiat-Chrysler's poor performance and diminished future, CEO and egomaniac Sergio Marchionne was paid $29.5 million in compensation last year, more than GM's Mary Barra and 3.5 times as much as Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz. Life's not fair ... but you already knew that, right?
'Murica: There's no better way to start the Fourth of July than to take an early morning drive in a venerable American car with an American V8 engine (we invented the mass-produced V8 in 1932) and loud American-made Glasspacks (we invented exhaust mufflers in 1911 but we also invented straight-through loud ones later), playing American rock-n-roll music (we invented rock-n-roll in the 1951) though the speakers.
And that's what I did at 9:00 am yesterday. The temperature was a comfortable 57 degrees, the sun was shining, the skies were blue and it was a great day to be alive.
Traffic was very light and - being the 4th of July - I had a blast! My '39 Plymouth resto-rod coupe ran great. (After I got home, I put up our large American flag.)
Later, we went to a cookout at our neighbors and had a very good time, sitting outside in the shade in 85 degree temperatures. Hope you had a good 4th, too.
Auto-Related Insight Of The Week is from Jack Baruth about auto journalists' and editors' refusal to downgrade vehicles for reliability problems: "There is a general feeling in the journalism game that mentioning reliability in a new-car review is somehow beyond the Pale, the same way that a woman's friends tend to clam up about her "romantic" past once it looks like she's landed a potential husband.
This is particularly true for brands which are known to have aggressive public-relations policies and/or substantial journalist-related budgets."
Like Jack, I don't think much of the various J.D. Power awards. I do however tend to rely on Consumer Reports, which remains the most comprehensive and believable of various reliability surveys.
As I've written before, there is not much of the way of "journalism" in writing about cars anymore. Certainly not in traditional media. When it comes to road tests and driving reports, I recommend that you peruse my Road Test Lingo page before trying to decipher such published articles.
Happy Birthday, Mom: My mother would have turned 99 years old today.
Book Review: 'The Hidden White House: Harry Truman and the Reconstruction of America's Most Famous Residence' by Robert Klara
The White House was built on a swamp in the late 18th Century. The British set it afire in 1814 and seriously damaged the structure. Various presidents have made changes to the house; many of the changes put undue strains on the already questionable structure.
In 1948, President Harry Truman was enjoying a bath on the White House's second floor when he and the tub almost plunged through the ceiling of the Blue Room and literally crashed a party. Shortly afterwards ... (more >>>)
Six-Month Report: Stocks have been on a tear during the first six-months of 2017. The Dow-Jones Industrial Average is up 8% so far this year, while the S&P 500 Index increased 8.2%. The Vanguard Index 500 Fund, which replicates the S&P but reinvests dividends, has increased 9.3%. The tech-heavy NASDAQ is up a whopping 14.1% so far.
Investors seem to recognize that there will be no top-to-bottom radical health care reform (even though it is sorely needed), meaning that firms in the health care field won't see a profit-squeeze anytime soon. The Vanguard Health Care Fund jumped 17.8% so far in 2107, while T. Rowe Price's Health Sciences Fund increased a ginormous 19.6% during the same period. Health Sciences is now closed to new investors. I'm glad I got in when I did.
Are stocks overpriced? I dunno. It depends on who you ask. But they are certainly not at bargain levels. There are analysts predicting doom & gloom in the near future. They may be right.
On the other hand, in a 2008 news special called 'Earth 2100', ABC News predicted that, by 2015, New York City would be under several feet of water due to rising seas. Gasoline would be $9 per gallon and milk $13 per gallon. The world population would shrink from 7 billion to under 3 billion due to climate catastrophes.
As regular readers of this blog already know, the Prediction Biz is fraught with peril.
Media Bypass: In a Drudge Poll of over 550,000 people, 78% believe President Trump should keep tweeting.
Quote Of The Day is from Mark Twain: "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."
| last month |