A Blog About Cars ... And More
Monday October 30, 2017
AutoSketch: 1955 Lincoln Futura - The 'Real' Batmobile
Introduced at the Detroit Auto Show in January, 1955, the Lincoln Futura stole the show. This fully-operational concept car was built by Ghia of Italy at a cost of $250,000. While the powertrain and chassis were pretty-much conventional Lincoln (although horsepower was claimed to be 330), the futuristic style of the car was anything but.
With its twin-bubble Plexiglas cockpit, big fins, 27 exterior and interior lamps and blue-white pearlescent paint, the nineteen foot long Futura provided a breath of fresh air for the Lincoln brand and hinted at ... (more >>>)
Long-Lasting Scenery: Based on many years living in the Pacific Northwest, I know that, as October comes to a close, we're living on borrowed time weather-wise. So when the sun broke through the morning fog on Thursday, I slid behind the wheel of my '39 Plymouth coupe and went for a drive. The temperature was 56 degrees and climbing at 11:00 am and the sky was virtually cloudless and slightly wan Fall azure in color. There were more leaves on the ground, the colors were still awesome and I had a good drive.
The day before, I had lunch with my friend Steve. He remarked that, in the 40 years he's lived in the Portland area, he has never seen such intense Fall color which has lasted so long. And we are both glad that it has.
Shocking Development: Toshiba claims to have developed an electric vehicle battery which will provide a 200-mile charge in just six minutes.
"The key to this rapid-charging lithium-ion battery is a new anode material. The next-generation Toshiba SCiB battery uses titanium niobium oxide, which doubles the capacity compared with graphite-based anodes."
Toshiba says it "has developed a proprietary method for synthesizing and disarranging crystals of titanium niobium oxide and storing lithium ions more efficiently in the crystal structure." It's also more durable in 'ultra-rapid' charging, and charging in cold weather, improving the battery's longevity. The battery maintains more than 90% of its capacity after 5,000 charge/discharge cycles.
Toshiba will make the SCiB commercially available in 2019.
Don't Worry; Be Happy: Recently, Malcolm Berko offered several reasons to be optimistic about today's very high stock market. These four grabbed my attention.
Who Knew? Ray Bradbury wrote his iconic sci-fi novel, 'Fahrenheit 451' on a public library's coin-operated typewriter in 1950. Little-known information like this is why I check Charles G. Hill's Dustbury every day.
Trick Or Treat: I still remember Halloween trick-or-treating as a kid. You could tell a lot about adults based on the treats they gave out. First, there were the really-great folks who gave out full-sized candy bars. Then there were the cheapskates who gave out Klein Bars, a cheap knockoff of Hershey Bars - a little smaller in length and width and micro-thin. But wrapped like a Hershey - even the lettering was similar. Except the slide-off wrapper was dark green instead of brown. (Like they could fool anybody above idiot level that these were Hershey bars. What were they thinking?) In those days, a Klein Bar cost 3¢; a Hershey Bar cost 5¢.
Then there were the 'creative' cheapskates who gave out little candies wrapped up in a paper napkin folded up 'hobo-style' and tied with cheap ribbon. Always containing disappointing contents - a couple of forlorn pieces of candy corn and some cheap hard candies fused together. Fooled no one - underneath the paper and ribbon - they were still cheapskates.
Finally, there were the jerks who gave out a single penny ... or didn't open their doors at all. Luckily, most people were nice ... and generous.
Halloween - a time when children can become judgmental and learn to separate adults into specific categories. (permalink)
Quote Of The Day is from Malcolm Berko: "Many college professors are like Slinkys; they're not really good for anything, though you still can't help but smile when you see one tumbling down the stairs."
Thursday October 26, 2017
Thirties Beauty: A 1933 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow recently crossed the RM Sotheby's auction stage in Hershey, Pennsylvania, selling for a fee-inclusive price of $2.31 million.
Just five were ever built, each priced at a Depression-era astronomical $10,000 ($189,000 in today's dollars) - 25% higher than the most expensive production Cadillac of the day. Three examples ... (more >>>)
October Surprise: After many days of rain, the sun reappeared and good weather is forecast for the remainder of the week. On Tuesday at 11:30 am, I fired up my '39 Plymouth business coupe and took it for a spin along the back roads of unincorporated Battle Ground. The temperature was in the mid-50s - not bad for late October.
The scenery was gorgeous; Fall colors just about at peak and there was much leafy eye-candy to be seen on either side of the roads. Just after I made a right turn, a deer pranced across the road about 100 feet ahead.
There's an underlying chill in the air, with innocuous, wispy clouds and light blue skies the color of a fading oxford shirt - all signs that summer is well-past and winter is behind the curtain, working up a cold head of steam.
The Plymouth ran great and I had an very enjoyable drive.
Thanks For All The Dollars, Suckers. Bài Bài La. Tesla is planning to make cars in China. "Billions of taxpayer-dollar subsidies have flowed into the coffers of Elon Musk's Tesla Motors, but apparently nobody ever thought to put any conditions on the loot to keep the benefits in this country." Oops.
Tesla's proposed plant will provide cars for the Chinese market. But, what about all those low-cost components - door handles, trim, cables and the like? Does anyone not think that such lower-cost components won't eventually make their way into Tesla's Freemont, California plant?
Wise Guy: Most Philadelphians are familiar with Wise Potato Chips. In the early days, Pennsylvania and New York were Wise's largest markets.
In 1921 Earl Wise, Sr. owned Wise Delicatessen and often found himself with too many potatoes. He used the extra potatoes to make potato chips, initially cooking them in his mother's kitchen. Four years later, he opened his first production plant in Berwick, PA - near Wilkes-Barre in the North-Central part of the state.
He chose a wise old owl as the logo for his chips. The idea of owl wisdom dates back to ancient Athens - its silver four-drachma coin bore the image of the owl on one side as a symbol of the city's patron, Athene Pronoia, the Greek goddess of wisdom. Wise owls are mentioned in Aesop's fables, early Indian folklore and in Bobby Day's 1958 hit, 'Rockin' Robin': "The wise old owl, the big black crow flappin' their wings singing 'Go bird, go'."
In 1964, the family-owned business was sold ... (more >>>)
Pioneer Of Rock: Antoine 'Fats' Domino, one of rock 'n roll's first stars, has died at age 89. The singer-songwriter was known for his infectious grin, his oft-nonchalant vocals and his easygoing manner as he pounded out tunes on a paino.
He sold 65 million singles, with 23 gold records, making him second only to Elvis Presley. Almost every notable performer in rock history has covered a Fats Domino song at one time or other.
While he had a lot of R&B hits in the early 1950s, Fats Domino's breakout rock 'n roll hit was 1955's 'Ain't That a Shame'. His 1956 recording of 'Blueberry Hill' sold over five million copies worldwide. Other top-ten hits included 'Blue Monday' (1956) ''When My Dreamboat Comes Home' (1956), 'My Blue Heaven' (1956), 'I'm Walkin' (1957), 'Whole Lotta Loving' (1958), 'I'm Gonna Be a Wheel Someday' (1959) and 'Walking to New Orleans' (1960).
In the mid-to-late '50s, if you listened to a teenage-oriented radio for a half-hour, you'd hear at least one Fats Domino song.
In 1986, Domino was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Rest in Peace, Fats. (permalink)
Book Review: 'Never Call Me A Hero: A Legendary American Dive-Bomber Pilot Remembers the Battle of Midway' by N. Jack 'Dusty' Kleiss (with Timothy & Laura Orr)
Over the past 12 months, I've read several books about World War II, including ... (more >>>)
Question of the Day: If people from Poland are called Poles, why aren't people from Holland called Holes?
Tuesday October 24, 2017
It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time: In the mid-1960s, there was an attempt to revive the Duesenberg automobile brand, a storied luxury marque of the 1930s brought down by the Great Depression. Many of the young men who admired Duesies in the company's halcyon days were now adults in their peak earning years and the U.S. economy was sailing along; therefore, a Duesy reincarnation seemed to make sense.
Duesenbergs appeared far more often in people's dreams than in real life. Dusie sightings were a rare event even the 1920s and '30s. The first Duesenberg, the Model A, was produced from 1921 to '27 - only 650 were sold over a period of six years. Production of the various versions of the Model J, made between 1928 and '37, totaled 481 vehicles. The cars were wickedly expensive; in 1933, a Model J chassis was factory-priced at $9,500 - over $180,000 in today's dollars. Then you had to pay a coachbuilder to put a body on it and fit the car with a proper interior.
My dad often uttered, "It's a Duesie!" As did other men of his time. It's a 1930s expression which referred to the rarely-seen Duesenberg automobile. The phrase meant: "It's the cat's meow." "It's unusual." "It's over-the-top." An testament to the greatness, legend and cult status of Duesenberg.
Fritz Duesenberg, son of the founder Augie Duesenberg, and ... (more >>>)
Faster, Please: A Swedish supercar, the Koenigsegg Agera RS has claimed a record time of 36.44 seconds in 0-248-0 mph acceleration/braking tests, beating the existing mark of 41.96 seconds by the Bugatti Chiron.
Seeing Blue: A friend recently asked me about blue-tinted auto glass. I have never seen any in a production car, probably because blue is not very good as an ultraviolet absorber and heat reflector.
Back in 1981, a guy named Mark approached my plastics manufacturing company, asking if we would produce tinted-blue Plexiglas windows and windshields for his custom automobile. The vehicle was a one-off fiberglass creature that he had designed and had built. It was a very impressive-looking, two-seater, mid-engined sports car. The auto was to be finished in metallic blue paint and he wanted to carry the blue theme into the windows.
Mark made the molds; we modified them so they'd work better and we did the heating and forming. All parts were complex, three-dimensional curvilinear shapes, even the side windows. A couple of months after we completed the work, he came back with photos of the finished car. Mark was very happy with our work, commenting that we were the only people on the West Coast willing to tackle the job. But we never saw him or the vehicle again.
I wonder where the car is now? (permalink)
The View From The Back Deck: When the Fall colors were at peak, they were beautiful to behold. I shot this photo from the back deck of our house:
Unfortunately, the leaves are rapidly turning brown and falling to the ground as it has been rainy and windy for much of the past week. Winter will be upon us. Sigh.
Clearly, The Man Has Never Eaten Entemann's: Last week, James Lileks wrote, "I have not sampled the doughnut with the chocolate frosting, because it will be doughnut chocolate and that never seems the same thing as actual chocolate."
Chocolate-covered Entemann's donuts are the best - I've been enjoying them for over 50 years.
Quote Of The Day is from David Burge, "Journalism is about covering important stories. With a pillow, until they stop moving."
Friday October 20, 2017
Where's The Passion? During a January 1987 trip to Arizona, we met some of my wife's uncles and aunts who were snowbirding from places like North Dakota, Montana and Colorado. When we pulled up in my rented white '87 Ford Thunderbird, the uncles came running out ... to look over the car. "What's it got in it?" "Stick or automatic?" "How many speeds?" "What's the axle ratio?" I knew the T-Bird was a V-6 with a four-speed automatic and that the popular rental companies didn't even offer manual transmissions anymore but I didn't expect to be quizzed about the rear axle ratio.
We quickly headed to a local cafe for 'second breakfast'. The portions were huge. The women sat at one table; the men another. At our table, the breakfast conversation was mostly about cars. And axle ratios. Everybody at the table knew theirs - to two decimal places - except me.
They were disappointed by that but were happy to learn that my personal car at home had a V-8. "That 302's a sweet motor," said one. "Got pretty decent git-up-n-scoot," opined another. They had less to say about my wife's brand-new Honda Accord. "Don't know much about that Jap stuff," one muttered. They teased one of the group, whose daughter had a Fiat X1/9: "How's her tin can of Spaghetti-Os runnin' these days?"
These men drove mostly full-size GM and Ford products. All were custom-ordered from their local small town dealer. They sat next to the salesman and checked the option boxes together - one by one. No bundled 'packages' for them. They enjoyed their new cars and traded them every few years for another new one. And they kept track of who bought their old one. "You know ol' Barney, he's still drivin' my '77 Caprice. She still looks nice, too. He keeps her up purty good."
It wasn't that my wife's uncles were car guys, they just knew their machinery ... and how to spec it out. They had a passion for machines.
All of these men are now dead. A new generation of car buyers has emerged, who know nothing about axle ratios, engine sizes or anything else. Challenge them on it and they'll respond, "Do you know the horsepower of the electric motor on your washer? Or dryer?" A logical question from people who see cars as appliances. (permalink)
How Fake News Happens ... is investigated by Jack Baruth at TTAC. This well-researched article about resale of electric cars shows how automobile statistics can be manipulated and misinterpreted and how bad/false/incorrect news reports are picked up by other media outlets who regurgitate and perpetuate the same misinformation.
Jack wrote, "How long did this common-sense investigation take me? About two hours of time total. How many other news sites performed the same analysis? Zero. Zip. Nada. How many major websites promoted the iSeeCars news story as if it were gospel truth? Let's see: CBS, Forbes, The Drive, Quartz, Green Car Reports, CheatSheet, Today - the list goes on, and on, and on. Not one of those outlets had somebody who could take a conscious moment and determine whether the news they were promoting made any sense whatsoever. Is that depressing? Sure."
Too many alleged news sites are staffed by 'content providers' who are paid by the word, rather than to examine and analyze. Investigative journalism is a dying breed.
Book Review: 'A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America' by Bruce Cannon Gibney
The jacket blurb claims that the author "shows how America was hijacked by the Boomers, a generation whose reckless self-indulgence degraded the foundations of American prosperity."
This 450-plus page angry and sarcastic rant is ... (more >>>)
Thirty Years Ago ... on Black Monday, October 19, 1987, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped a whopping 508 points - 22% - in one day. It was the biggest single-day drop in the Dow's history.
There was much weeping and pointing of fingers - at everything from program-trading to that Evil Ronald Reagan. Nitwit Al Gore said at the time that "the voodoo chickens of Reaganomics have come home to roost." Yeah, right.
I saw the market drop as an opportunity. IBM had lost 25% of its value that day. When I got home from work at 4:30 pm (PST), I telephoned my broker at Shearson/American Express and put in a buy order for 100 shares of IBM. She asked, "Are you sure?" "Yep," I replied. "The best time to invest is when there's blood running in the streets." That was probably the only time in my life that I've quoted 19th Century financier Baron Rothschild.
Over the years, I kept my little investment and reinvested the dividends. I sold them all on 10/19/17. While IBM has lagged the overall market over the past five years, it had increased almost ten-fold since that dark day in '87. We sold all our shares yesterday.
Murphy's Law of Mechanical Repair: After your hands become coated with grease, your nose will begin to itch and you'll have to pee.
Wednesday October 18, 2017
Delivering Cars: In today's world, it's not uncommon to see a truck hauling 10 or more new cars. In 1940, such hauling capacity was only a dream.
A February 1940 photo shows a three-car hauler driving down a street in Eufaula, Oklahoma - population around 2,800 or so - in eastern Oklahoma. A 1939 GMC truck carries ... (more >>>)
In Development: It should be noted that even traditional vehicle manufacturers have start-up problems. The new Thunderbird of the early 21st Century suffered production delays following troublesome start-up problems. Many blamed the delay on Ford CEO Jac Nasser's 1999 diversity initiative. He once told an audience of Ford employees, "I do not like the sea of white faces (I'm seeing here)."
Under Nasser's reign of incompetence, many experienced Ford engineers were forced out and replaced by inexperienced youngsters who fit Nasser's multicultural objectives. These new engineers may have been intelligent but lacked the production floor savvy and bend-the-rules techniques used to de-bug new models on automotive assembly lines.
In the case of the Tesla Model 3 - the overpriced smaller car which is supposed to "save" Tesla Motors, lack of experience with down-to-earth, get-er-done auto production techniques seem to be causing significant delays in getting from development stage to full production.
Ed Niedermeyer wrote that ... (more >>>)
Last Gas Till Spring? At 11:00 am Monday, it was sunny but cold with a temperature in the upper 40s. I fired up my '39 Plymouth business coupe, drove to town and fueled up. Gas stations around these parts must switch to winter mix by November 1st, so I prudently topped off before a big tanker arrived to put devil gas in the station's underground tanks.
I also added Sta-Bil to my old car's gas tank. I bought a big bottle - not realizing it was enough to treat 80 gallons, so now I must live for enough future winters to use it all up.
After fueling up, I took a nice drive admiring the Fall colors everywhere. The cold, shorter sunny days combined with rainstorms - beginning yesterday and forecast through the weekend - means that we are sliding downhill to winter.
Short Days Ahead: On Sunday, I shot a photo from the back deck as I cooked a fillet on our new outdoor grill. It was only 6:10 pm but the sun was already below the horizon and the moon was well on the rise.
There was a chill in the air and I was wearing a heavy sweater. We had a nice dinner along with some Sinclair Estates Vineyards 2012 Cabernet. By 7:00 pm, it was completely dark. Summer's gone. I had to strap-on a head lamp just to clean the grill.
Tis The Season: We're beginning to receive Holiday Catalogs in our mailbox; two weeks ago, a brochure arrived from Balsam Hill offering Christmas trees and wreaths.
Some catalogs I receive are automotive-related because, over the years, I've bought a lot of auto accessories, model cars and automobilia from catalogs. This has gained me the Dubious Privilege of having my good name added hundreds of mailing lists which sellers gleefully exchange with each other or sell to list brokers.
There are many catalogs crammed with old-timey items, usually inaccurate knockoffs of memorabilia from the 1950s-60s. These are targeted at retired geezers like me, hoping that I'll order something to remind me of my youth.
Nostalgia is a generally-harmless ... (more >>>)
Question Of The Day is from Oregon Muse over at Ace: "Why is it that progressives, who loudly proclaim their love of science, also claim that there are 83 genders, fire can't melt steel, men can menstruate, ISIS was caused by global warming, and babies aren't human?"
Monday October 16, 2017
Worst Cadillac Ever? Mac's Motor City Garage posted an article about the laughable, unloved subcompact Cadillac Cimarron which was offered from 1982 to '88.
Close cousin of the lowly Chevrolet Cavalier, "the Cimarron was formally introduced on May 21, 1981, it sported a base price of $12,131 - roughly twice the price of a Cavalier."
The Cimarron was the priciest of its lesser J-brethren: Chevrolet Cavalier, Pontiac Sunbird, Oldsmobile Firenza, Buick Skyhawk, Holden Camira, Opel Ascona and Vauxhall Cavalier. Crap cars all.
Gil Spear: Following an inquiry from a Hemmings Classic Car writer, who is preparing an article about Mr. Spear, I looked at my 2008 web article on this prolific auto designer and decided that it needed an update.
My revised web page is posted here.
Floral Fall: At 3:00 am Saturday, the thermometer reached a low of 33 degrees at our house. We later awoke to dense fog which finally lifted at noon. That was my signal to go for an old car drive in my '39 Plymouth coupe. The temperature had risen to a still-cold 45 degrees but the sun was shining with only a few wisps of clouds. Mt. St. Helens was readily visible and snow-capped.
Albert Camus once wrote, "Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower." Well, there is much Fall color these days; I couldn't get over how much color has been added in just four days.
There was some traffic but no school buses or big trucks on my back road driving loop. Heading home I saw a white Tesla Model S on my street headed toward me. The driver waved; perhaps one of my neighbors has acquired a new car.
It was a mere 34 degrees at 7:00 am Sunday as we drove to church in my warm Lexus LS 460 (great heater, heated seats, heated steering wheel). By 1:30 pm, the temperature had warmed to the upper 50s and it was a gorgeous day, so I fired up the ol' Plymouth and took another drive.
I'm taking these old car drives whenever the Fall weather is favorable.
The Rise & Fall Of Rail: In July of this year, I added more information and clarification to my online article about the decline of the Pennsylvania Railroad, its merger with the New York Central, the resultant bankruptcy mess and the formation of Amtrak and Conrail.
I have now expanded the article, retitled it 'A Select History Of U.S. Railroading', and posted it on a new page here.
Book Review: 'The 1964-1965 New York World's Fair' by Bill Cotter and Bill Young
This 96-page book, mostly a captioned color photo book, is part of the 'Images of Modern America' series. A book with the identical title is offered as 'Images of America' and contains only black and white images. Spend a few bucks more and get this color one. This softbound offering is not a coffee table book; typical photo size is ... (more >>>)
It Rots Your Brain: Over at Ace, Oregon Muse wrote, "40% of the population is black, 30% is homosexual, 25% have some form of gender dysphoria, and no member of these groups ever commit any crimes. All crimes are committed by white guys, and one 120 lb. woman can usually win a fight against several professionally-trained, 235 lb. men. This is what I've learned from watching prime-time TV."
Wow - the Muse must be watching the same shows I am.
Quote Of The Day is from the late Gracie Allen: "I read a book twice as fast as anybody else. First, I read the beginning, and then I read the ending, and then I start in the middle and read toward whatever end I like best."
Thursday October 12, 2017
Cadillac's Fate: Over at TTAC, Jack Baruth lamented the passing of Cadillacs of yore, noting, "The problem with Cadillac as I see it, however, is this: Customers in the highline markets are extremely sensitive to authenticity. ... Most luxury-car buyers have to be taught what to want, because they didn't grow up with an intimate knowledge of luxury cars. So they are hyper attentive to any signs that a product is imitative or ersatz because they are worried about being humiliated. They would rather buy a subpar product with impeccable social credentials than buy a brilliant product that might cause their neighbors to sneer."
"The reason I think Cadillac should go back to making Fleetwoods and deVilles and unashamedly American cars isn't because I think those cars are more in keeping with the brand, although they are. It's because selling vehicles that are obviously authentic Cadillacs in the classic style would demonstrate confidence to customers. Which in turn would result in more sales. I'd like to see Cadillac once again become the Standard of the World. But it has to be on their own terms. Or it's meaningless. Simple as that."
I remember a 1980s commercial for the Volkswagen Fox, which began by showing a video of a Beetle which passed by as the narrator said, "The Volkswagen Beetle - a car whose time has come and gone." I feel the same way about Cadillac as a luxury brand in the U.S. Its time has passed.
Once upon a time ... (more >>>)
In Between The Rain: It has been a rainy week around these parts but Monday dawned foggy but dry. The fog finally lifted at 11:15 am, so I decided to take a drive in my '39 Plymouth coupe.
The temperature was a decidedly chilly 48 degrees, something my Plymouth's primitive box heater doesn't handle well. At the end of the sunny, fun drive, my hands were like ice. Shoulda worn gloves, I guess.
The roads weren't busy - schools were open and mail trucks were nowhere to be seen. I'm not sure what holiday was being celebrated by the Post Office: Columbus Day or its trendy PC replacement, 'Indigenous Peoples Day', something I could never understand.
Poor Christopher Columbus - he sailed the ocean blue in 1492 and as President Trump said earlier this week, "The voyage was a remarkable and then-unparallelled feat that helped launch the age of exploration and discovery. The permanent arrival of Europeans to the Americas was the transformative event that undeniably and fundamentally changed the course of human history and set the stage for the development of our great nation." Indeed. That's how I learned it in school.
It was somehow appropriate that I drove my Plymouth on that fine day. While it has no real connection to Mr. Columbus, nor his three famous ships, it does carry several images of another well-known vessel, the Mayflower, which arrived at the shores of the New World in 1620, after a 66-day voyage from Plymouth, England.
Chrysler Corporation had no problem associating its low-priced car with a bunch of Pilgrims, although - truth be told - the Plymouth automobile got its name from a brand of twine popular with farmers.
I belatedly wish all of you a Happy Columbus Day. Perhaps it's not so belated since the holiday used to be celebrated on this day - October 12th - until someone decided to round up all the non-religious U.S. holidays to Mondays or Fridays.
By the way, I took another Plymouth drive on Tuesday at 11:30 am. It was 55 degrees and mostly cloudy, although 10 minutes before I backed out of the garage, there was plenty of blue sky and sunshine. The rain began shortly after I returned home.
As I type this, the rain is coming down. Again. Fall weather ... it's unpredictable. (permalink)
Book Review: 'A Pope And A President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century' by Paul Kengor
Once upon a time, the Soviet Union was very frightening. After the 1917 Russian revolution, which gave birth to Leninism and the USSR, communism was quickly exported to the West. The U.S. was full of commies by the 1930s, partly because the tough times the Great Depression caused people to seek out alternatives. Then Stalin got a incredible deal from a frail, sickly FDR during the WWII Yalta talks. This increased his territory and his grip on Europe.
The Ruskies detonated ... (more >>>)
Asset Allocation: T. Rowe Price, a mutual fund company, recently stated, "It is important to have an appropriate mix of the different investment categories: equities, fixed income, and short-term investments. The length of time a retirement investor plans to invest his or her savings can help determine how much money to allocate to each type of investment."
As an investor gets closer to retirement ... (more >>>)
So, Will There Now Be Boy Scout Cookies? The Boy Scouts of America have announced that girls will soon be allowed to become Cub Scouts and to earn the coveted rank of Eagle Scout, the organization's highest honor. The scouting board of directors voted unanimously to make the historic change in the 107 year-old organization.
As a former Boy Scout, I believe we are now living in Bizarro World.
Riddle Of The Day: Why was the elephant standing on the marshmallow? A: Because he didn't want to fall in the hot chocolate.
Tuesday October 10, 2017
Whatever Happened To Aerodynamics? The Toyota TJ Cruiser concept, shown at the Tokyo Auto Show, seems to have been styled using scissors, card stock and LePage glue.
Toyota claims that "this practical little machine can be used like one to store all sorts of stuff." Yeah .. well, so can a footlocker.
Who Cares? The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is the new SUV king of the Nürburgring. The Ferrari-based 510-horsepower twin-turbo V6 managed to whip around the north loop of the 'Ring in just 7 minutes and 51 seconds.
Does anyone really give a rat's patootie? The U in SUV stands for Utility. If you want to go fast on a race track, get a race car ... or a super car ... or a sports car.
What's next? Nürburgring lap times for tractors: John Deere versus Kubota?
Electric Trucks - Not A New Idea: Walker Electric Trucks were battery-powered vehicles built from 1907 to 1942 in Chicago, Illinois and Detroit, Michigan. The vehicles were initially designed and manufactured by the Walker Vehicle Company in Chicago.
Matchbox produced a model (approximately 1:60 scale) of the 1919 Walker Electric Parcel Van as part of its Yesteryear series in 1985. It was ... (more >>>)
"Oh, The Days Dwindle Down ..." Fall is definitely here. The sun arrives later; I arise in the dark. The days are still sunny but there has been a change in the light . It now has that Fall look - waning and shadowy. The sky is a pale, anemic blue. There is more autumn color in the trees and bushes.
At 11:00 am last Friday, I fired up my '39 Plymouth and went for an old car drive. It was a chilly 53 degrees outside but quite sunny with wisps of clouds here and there. Mt. St. Helens is capped with snow but the nearby mountainy hills are still snow-free.
During my little excursion, I spotted a '70s-era Porsche 914 headed in the other direction. Orange, of course. Almost every 914 I've ever seen has been orange. I hadn't seen one of those squared-off, two-seater tri-boxes in over 30 years. The 914 is the least Porsche-looking Porsche ever made. It was originally designed to be VW's replacement for the Karmann Ghia and probably would have been better-looking if Ghia had designed it. But alas, it was styled by some German Bauhaus aficionado and looked asexually Bauhausian rather than sexy Italian. No wonder 914s are seen as infrequently as Volkswagen Things. Come to think of it, almost every Thing I've ever seen has been orange in color. Coincidence ... or what?!
I had a pleasant drive and, as I pulled back into the driveway, the Spaniels were warbling 'Goodnight Sweetheart' through the speakers. That 1954 doo-wop ballad remained a popular closing number at Philadelphia-area teen dances in the late 1950s and early '60s.
Two Despicable People: Last week's horrific mass-shooting in Las Vegas brought out the best in many people - acts of bravery, selflessness and kindness were abundant at the scene. Elsewhere ... not so much:
Don't Forget - Flu Season Is Coming:
I'm scheduled to get my shot early next month.
Here's A Good Idea: Why not apply the same level of background checks mandated for gun purchases to voting?
"If Democrats really believe that the National Instant Criminal Background Check System doesn't interfere “in any way” with people's constitutional rights to own a gun, doesn't it follow that the same system would not constitute an infringement on people's right to vote? This would give Republicans a system for stopping vote fraud and Democrats a system that they have already vigorously endorsed.
The NICS system doesn't just determine if potential gun buyers have criminal histories. It also checks whether a person is in this country illegally, has a nonimmigrant visa or has renounced his citizenship. Such people are not allowed to vote. The system doesn't currently flag people who are on immigrant visas but who could be added to the system."
Today's Inspirational Thought: Never underestimate the power of very stupid people in large groups.
Friday October 6, 2017
Make America Great Again ... with 'foreign' cars built here: German automaker Daimler will spend $1 billion to expand its Mercedes-Benz operations near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to produce batteries and electric sport utility vehicles that would compete with Tesla. More than 600 new jobs will be created.
Rival BMW is expanding its South Carolina factory, adding 1,000 jobs. Volkswagen expects to bring electric SUV production to the United States and could add production at its Tennessee plant.
Toyota and Mazda are joining forces to build a new U.S. factory capable of producing up to 300,000 vehicles a year, with 4,000 new jobs. Honda is expanding production of Accord models at its factory in Ohio.
Chinese-owned Volvo is planning a second production line at a factory in South Carolina that is still under construction.
According to the article, "The burst of investments to expand U.S. vehicle production capacity also reflects intensified competition for market share in the world's most profitable vehicle market."
IKEA People: At the Swedish furniture and home accessories giant, "a simple desk or dresser contains, by IKEA's own admission, at least 26 different species of wood from at least 18 different countries - and usually far more. The result is a sleek but crumbly piece of furniture, sure to camouflage into any new apartment. Jennifer and Jason use their dressers every day without a thought as to the work or the materials that made them."
It's the equivalent of ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'Killers Of The Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI' by David Grann
This was a disturbing tale about prejudice, greed and death of wealthy Native Americans in order to steal their income. In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. Their mysterious and suspicious deaths remained mostly ignored and unsolved until FBI Agent and former Texas Ranger Tom White and his crew arrived on the scene and discovered conspiracies by white men to ... (more >>>)
Bad Pun Of The Day: Two termites walk into a bar. One asks, "Is the bar tender here?"
Wednesday October 4, 2017
Fall Around The Neighborhood: On Monday, I decided to fire up my '39 Plymouth coupe and go for a drive. At 11:00 am, the temperature was a cool 53 degrees; the sun was out and there were blue skies above but around the horizon there was a ring of gray/white clouds reminding me of Ed Asner's head.
We are obviously into Fall, there was more color in the trees than a week ago and the giant cedars along our street are shedding their brown needles in droves.
Amazingly, the roads were practically empty and I had a delightful old car drive.
I took another pleasant drive on Tuesday. This time, the skies were almost cloudless and I had a great view of snowy Mt. St. Helens. It was colder too. Of course, two data points do not a trend make, but I think the science it settled - as it gets closer to winter, it gets colder.
September Auto Sales: U.S. light vehicle sales were at a 18.4 million SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate) in September - up 4% from September 2016 and up 15% from last month. Sales were helped as consumers in hurricane-hit parts of the country replaced flood-damaged cars. Houston area dealers reported a sales jump of 109% last month.
Sales of pickup trucks rose to the highest level so far this year in the U.S., jumping 12 percent to 257,864 units. Ford sold a whopping 82,302 F-Series pickups in September (+24%), topping sales of General Motors' Chevy Silverado by 26,967 units. Adding in sales of the GMC Sierra, Ford outsold GM in the pickup wars by 8,861 units. Fiat-Chrysler's Ram pickup sales fell 1% year over year to 47,142 units.
General Motors posted total September U.S. sales of 279,397 vehicles, an increase of 12% over last year. Fleet sales accounted for 19% of sales. Sales of the top-selling Silverado pickup rose by 22% year over year to 55,236 units while GMC Sierra sales were flat. Cadillac sales rose 1% in September to 15,530 vehicles.
Total Chevrolet deliveries in September increased by 171.4% to 199,801 units. The Chevy Equinox SUV posted a sales gain of 80% in September. Buick experienced a decline of 20%. The new Buick Envision and the Encore posted year-over-year sales gains of 40% and 13%, respectively.
Ford Motor Co. reported a U.S. sales increase of 9% year-over-year, to 222,248 Ford and Lincoln vehicles. Ford Mustang sales fell by 9% year over year. Fiesta sales were down 12%, while Fusion sales rose 3% year over year. Sales of the Lincoln brand were flat at 8,802 units.
Sales dropped 10% at Fiat-Chrysler to 174,266 units. September fleet sales were down 41% year over year. The Jeep brand posted a sales drop of 4% year over year. Chrysler brand sales dropped 16%, while Dodge dropped 30% overall, as sales of the Dodge Caravan dropped 62% to 3,113 units. The Journey compact SUV saw sales drop by 48% year-over-year to 6,314 units. At Fiat, sales declined 24% to 2,206 vehicles; the base model 500 had a drop of 31% to 1,016 units.
Toyota sales increased 17% to 200,436 vehicles, while Honda sales rose 7% to 129,776 units. Subaru sales were up slightly, while Nissan sales increased 9% to 127,187 vehicles. Volkswagen sales jumped 33% to 32,112 vehicles.
In the luxury/near-luxury field, sales of the Audi brand were up 10% to 19,308 vehicles, Acura sales increased 1% to 12,964 units, BMW sales rose fractionally to 25,571 vehicles, Infinity jumped 12% to 12,745 units, Lexus rose 2% to 26,196 units and Mercedes-Benz topped all other luxury vehicles with sales of 29,008 - a 2% decline. Jaguar sales leaped 24% to 3,296 kitties. Porsche sales increased 13% to 5,059 units.
In the category of Dead Brand Walking, only 241 Smart cars found homes last month.
Tesla sold 4,620 vehicles in September but its quarterly results show many missed targets. Q3 production totaled 25,336 vehicles, with only 260 of them being Model 3 because of "production bottlenecks." The automaker has promised a production rate of 5,000 Model 3s per week by the end of the year. Good luck with that.
Tesla is much better at manufacturing bullshit forecasts than it is at manufacturing actual vehicles.
A Real Pipperoo! There's a real earwig of a 1942 song called: '(I've Got a Gal in) Kalamazoo'.
Performed by Glenn Miller and his orchestra with vocals by Tex Beneke, Marion Hutton and the Modernaires, it's a catchy, upbeat tune. How catchy, you ask? Good enough to be in my iTunes rotation, along with 'On the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe', 'Chattanooga Choo-Choo', 'Cow-Cow Boogie', 'Sunny Side Of The Street' and other big band faves. As a 12 year-old, I used to play a shellac recording of this on an ancient wind-up Victrola while accompanying on my uncle's drum set.
Mark Steyn has written and interesting, fact-filled dissection of 'Kalamazoo'. If you enjoy 1940s music - which I would classify as Music Of My (Early) Life', since my uncle (the one with the '41 Chrysler Saratoga coupe) lived with us, was a huge Glenn Miller fan and was either playing records on the Victrola or had the radio on - you'll surely enjoy Mark's article.
Lightning Strike Alert: The headline caught my eye ... (more >>>)
Pray For ... the souls of those 59 who died in the horrible Las Vegas shootings. Pray for the recovery of those 527 who were injured. Recognize that there is evil in the world - malevolent humans who cause pain and misery. Hold your loved ones close.
Question Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "Why do we drive on the parkway and park on the driveway?"
Monday October 2, 2017
Not Often Seen In Scale: In the model car world, miniature 1956 Chevrolets are seen far less often than its '55 and '57 brethren. The 1957 Chevy has been modeled in various scales thousands of times. Almost as much as Ferrari 458, '57 Thunderbird and Porsche 911 models.
In the late 1980s ... (more >>>)
Livin' Large: At the State Fair of Texas, Ford introduced the F-450 Super Duty Limited, a luxury pickup with 30,000 lbs. of towing capacity, V8 diesel power, and a price starting at $94,455.
Ford truck marketing manager Todd Eckert proclaimed that this "Super Duty Limited is the most luxurious and advanced heavy-duty pickup truck ever created by Ford for accomplished buyers, with appetites for the high life and hard-earned dollars to match."
Taxis & Trolleys: A 1939 Washington, D.C. photo posted by Ol' Remus at The Woodpile Report is captioned: "The intersection of 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue." There's a trio of '39 Plymouth taxicabs ... (more >>>)
Change Of Seasons: There's no doubt that Fall has arrived. Last week featured the classic symptoms with warm, sunny days with cloudless pale blue skies and clear, chilly nights that prophesy what's ahead. It rained over the weekend and rain is forecast for most of this week, but I managed to get a couple of '39 Plymouth coupe old car drives in while the weather was still decent.
At 9:30 am last Wednesday, the thermometer was air-kissing 60 degrees and the sun shone brightly. As I drove along my usual back-roads loop, I noticed that some of the trees were beginning to turn and the greenery had darkened and lost its summer sheen.
On Thursday, I took another pleasant drive under almost identical weather conditions. The rain began Friday.
Book Review: 'The Medici: Power, Money, and Ambition in the Italian Renaissance' by Paul Strathern
This is a compelling and dramatic account of the rise and fall of the Medici family and the events which surrounded them, many of which they created. From the 13th to the 16th Century ... (more >>>)
Dead Bunnymaker: Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy magazine, has died at age 91. Or as the Celebrity Death Watch guys put it, he has "finally gone limp." Well, except for that rigor mortis thing.
Hef borrowed money to publish the first issue in 1953. Marilyn Monroe was Playboy's first cover girl. Playboy became famous for photos of beautiful naked women, interesting articles, intelligent interviews and funny cartoons.
Playboy became an enterprise with a television show, Playboy Clubs in major cities and later, a multi-media production company. In 2005, Hef, as a 79 year-old Geezer in his iconic silk bathrobe - accompanied by several comely Bunnies, did a Carl's Jr. burger commercial touting the chain's variety of offerings. The commercial's slogan, "Because Some Guys Don't Want the Same Thing Day After Day." Ha.
In the 1970s, Mr. Hefner was criticized by women's groups for airbrushing photos of his Playmates of the Month, creating a beauty standard which couldn't be attained in real life. Baloney - after enough drinks every woman looks airbrushed and slightly out-of-focus.
My introduction to Playboy was at the tender age of 12 at Frank's Barber Shop in Philadelphia. Frank also offered issues of Sunshine and Health as reading material. S&H was a nudist magazine; in all the photos, the nekkid people always seemed to be holding beach balls to strategically cover (as the Brits say) "the naughty bits." I have never seen so many beach balls in one place. As a youngster, I figured that nudists must have accounted for 80% of beach ball purchases in the U.S.
My good friend and car buddy, Ray, still subscribes to Playboy magazine and was once a Playboy Club keyholder. He shared this memory: "I have been in Playboy Clubs in Chicago, Boston and San Francisco. The girls were beautiful. The bills were padded. The food quality varied. When I married in 1979, we both were working. The next weekend, we went to a medical conference in Chicago. We studied hard all day. And partied all night. The neatest place we went was the Chicago Playboy Club! We saw Hugh Hefner and his entourage but did not meet them personally. I think Barbi Benton was his main squeeze at the time. The featured singer that night was Lou Rawls backed up by Les McCann's Trio. The restaurant staff even sang "Happy Wedding" to us before the night was out. We stayed there till 2:00 am, took a Playboy limo back to the hotel and I, at least, managed to make class at 7:00 am. I think my total bill for the evening was on the order of $275 including gratuities. But what a hell of a good time! And a great memory."
Fittingly, Hugh Hefner will be laid to rest (no pun intended) in a crypt next to Marilyn Monroe, although the two never met in real life. So, at last, he gets to sleep with Marilyn. RIP.
In somewhat related news, Monty Hall, the genial host and co-creator of 'Let's Make A Deal', has died at age 96 of heart failure. Hall kept 'Let's Make a Deal' moving for most of almost 5,000 broadcasts on NBC, ABC and in syndication.
Monty once recalled the day that a contestant was stunned when he chose a curtain behind which he had hoped was a car: "It was an elephant. It freaked - ran backstage, down a ramp and out into the streets of LA. That's probably the show's wildest moment." Hall remained involved in 'Let's Make A Deal' to the end, as an owner of the show and an occasional guest.
I hope he picked the correct door in the afterlife.
Quote Of The Day is from George Bernard Shaw: "People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, make them."
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