A Blog About Cars ... And More
Tuesday October 30, 2018
AutoSketch: 1956 Lincoln - Successful Upgrade
Acquired in 1922 as a way for Henry Ford to keep his son Edsel occupied so that he didn't mess with the Model T, Lincoln was for years a premium brand, competing with the likes of Cadillac and Packard. Lincoln's first foray into the upper mid-priced field with the Zephyr happened during the Great Depression of the 1930s and was a response to Packard's downmarket 120 model.
After Edsel died in 1943, Lincoln began to drift ... (more >>>)
Cut Off U.S. Regions To Make More Profit? I'm not sure this is a smart idea but Ford Motor Company "has discovered that its profit margin on a given model varies by region. Now the company is allocating more inventory to those regions where the returns are best."
How does this make sense when the company has excess manufacturing capacity at almost all of its plants?
Not All Hondas Are Reliable: Consumer Reports least reliable vehicles include two Hondas - the Clarity sedan and the Odyssey inivan. CR's top our brands for reliability are Lexus, Toyota, Mazda and Subaru.
Does Anyone On This Planet Care? Irish singer Sinead O'Connor announced her conversion to Islam, changing her name to Shuhada’ Davitt.
Shuhada kept taking her lithium pills. On the other hand, a burka will probably improve her looks.
Trivia: O'Connor once waitressed at the Bad Ass Cafe in Temple Bar section of Dublin.
Bum Deal: Clark Count Washington has put together a four-year plan to "help" the homeless, now a protected species, apparently. It includes things such as 293 new permanent housing placements, 96 additional interim and transitional housing units, 50 more emergency shelter beds, 24 more sanctioned parking spots, 20 additional youth-appropriate housing options and 8 more outreach workers. All of these things make the area homeless-friendly and attract more homeless people, exacerbating the problem.
Some aspects of solving homelessness are outside the scope of this Homeless Action Plan, such as creating living-wage jobs or improving behavioral and physical health. Apparently, encouraging them to leave is also beyond the scope of HAP, making it ... (more >>>)
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)
Joke The Day is from Henny Youngman: Patient: "I have a ringing in my ears." Doctor: "Don't answer!"
Friday October 26, 2018
Stoplight Lottery: You know all about it. Because you've played the game, just as I have. Probably all your driving life. Traffic is light. You're approaching a stoplight. There is only one stopped vehicle in each lane. Which one do you get behind? You make your decision based on whom you think will accelerate faster to reach/exceed the speed limit when the light turns green.
This involves a lot of stereotyping, of course. About cars and the people who drive them. At this point, if you're a sensitive, virtue-signaling type, you may want to stop reading this article before it offends your sensibilities to such an extent that you're tempted to go perform seppuku in the nearest gender-neutral bathroom. Unless you feel such an act represents excessive cultural appropriation.
It may not seem politically correct but everyone I know plays stoplight lottery when behind the wheel. All the time. Personally, I don't use the word "stereotyping" in describing game strategy; I prefer the phrase "drawing on my enormous database of real-world driving experiences."
Sometimes, your stereotypical choice doesn't live up to expectations. Last week ... (more >>>)
Good News And Bad News: Tesla managed to turn a profit in its most recent quarter. It's the first time the electric carmaker ever made a profit. Whether the company is viable, say three years from now, when everybody (Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Volkswagen, etc.) is in the electric car business remains a big question.
As for the bad news, Tesla has picked up some dismal reliability rankings from Consumer Reports. The Tesla Model X posted what might be considered a very modest improvement in the magazine's latest annual Automotive Reliability survey: it was the second-worst vehicle on the road after being ranked the absolute worst in 2017. "Perhaps the biggest disappointment for the carmaker came with the decision by Consumer Reports to withdraw its coveted 'Recommended Buy' rating for the Model S sedan due to an increase in reliability issues." On the plus side, the magazine gave the new Model 3 a preliminary 'average' score.
"Tesla fared poorly, on the whole, in the closely followed study which looks at how readers rank the reliability of their vehicles. The California carmaker came in 27th among the 29 auto brands CR rated, ahead of only Cadillac and Volvo."
Gettin' Old: The average age of a vehicle driven in America has steadily risen during the past few years and the latest study reveals that the average is even higher still 10.5 years in 2017 up from 9.3 years in 2009.
If you are poor, earning $25,000 a year or less, you drive the oldest car on average: 13 years, which is up from 11.9. Well, we're not poor, but ... let's see .. our cars are 13.6, 10.8 and 80 years old - an average of 34.8 years.
Why I Love Manufacturing (And You Should, Too): In the 21 months since his inauguration, President Trump's deregulatory policies and historic tax cuts have led to a manufacturing resurgence, with 396,000 jobs added. In fact, the pace of manufacturing job growth over the past 21 months of President Trump's leadership is more than 10 times that of President Obama's last 21 months in office.
Manufacturing is vital to the American economy because it is a generator of wealth. Taking abundant, low-cost raw materials (wood, baking flour, steel) and processing them to produce much more expensive items (furniture, cakes, automobiles) adds value and creates profit. This in turn produces prosperity - for individuals and for a nation.
Furthermore, if our nation's products are unique and interesting enough that people in other countries want to buy them, fresh capital is brought into the United States. Such capital can used to expand capacity, improve product offerings and increase efficiency - these things make our wares even more competitive and attractive in the world market.
That's why the word 'Make' is in 'Make America Great Again'. I've written more about manufacturing here.
What To Do About Honduran And Other Immigrant Mobs: J.J. Sefton suggested several action items, noting, "Aside from sending the military and physically sealing our border, after declaring a national state of emergency the President should also:
And there's more, as stated in the original post. It all makes sense to me.
Book Review: 'Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other' by Conrad Black
Mr. Black is an author, entrepreneur and former newspaper owner. He has known Donald Trump for many years and once sold him a building. A talented writer and shrewd political observer, Black provides an interesting and insightful analysis of what made The Donald successful.
He doesn't hold back, recounting Trump's successes as well as ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Nicolás Gómez Dávila (aka - Don Colacho): "To be a Christian is to not be alone, no matter the solitude that surrounds us."
Wednesday October 24, 2018
Road Test Lingo And Automotive Buzzwords: Are you confused by the road test evaluation terms bandied about in Motor Trend, Road & Track, Car & Driver, et al? "What are those auto writers and critics really saying?" you ask. Well, you need wonder no more.
After many years of study (as an interested outsider), I have developed translations of the most popular descriptive catch-phrases used in car buff magazines ... (more >>>)
"Oh, The Days Dwindle Down ..." Fall has definitely arrived. There has been a change in the light - it now has that Fall Look - wan and a bit shadowy. The sky is a paler, anemic blue with wispy clouds.
The leaves are at or a just past peak. Many have the dull, darkening brown of death. There are still some bright reds here-and-there, but the yellow ones are getting a decidedly brown cast. By 11:30, most of the heavy morning fog had burned off and the temperature was around 50, so I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and went for a drive.
The traffic was fairly light but those vinyl tuck-and-roll seats were cold enough to drain all the heat from any buttocks within a 200-foot radius of the Plymouth. I left the windows rolled up and waited for the little box heater to start warming the car. As is usual in colder wether, it kicks in only after many miles. In my case just as I turned on my street on the way home. Nevertheless, I had a good drive.
Clouds and rain are forecast for the remainder of the week. The rain began Tuesday afternoon. Summer is long gone.
Don't Bet On Electric: Recently Peter De Lorenzo, the Autoextremist, opined on the problems of electric vehicles versus the good ol' internal combustion engine. He observed that "the marketing of electric vehicles will be one of the marketing challenges in automotive history. Getting consumers to pay $15,000 to $25,000 more and up for a fully electric vehicle over a traditional ICE vehicle is far from a given. And the marketers are going to struggle mightily to convince consumers that electrification is exactly what they need and want."
One of the problem with electric cars is that one person's tax money is being used to help someone else buy an overpriced car. That's not right.
Serious Greatness: Catholic blog Rorate Caeli opined that "Pius XII was the last truly great Pope." I remember him. He was a stern, dogmatic man - he didn't smile much or joke around. I don't think Pius XII would have approved of some of the casual dress at Mass these days, the off-the-cuff, situation-ethics approach to Christianity and the theologically-questionable, off-handed comments made by Pope Francis. Or rainbow flags. Or the ... (more >>>)
Coming Soon To A Liberal City Near You: In Toronto, the PC police are encouraging people not to use the term "homeless," which is "derogatory and unkind." Instead, bums and tramps are to be referred to as our "outdoor neighbors."
All of the liberal madness, riots and infantile behavior caused me to vote all-Republican on my mail-in ballot. In some cases, I had to hold my nose when I checked the box but the alternative was worse.
As Conrad Black wrote, "A vote for the Democrats is an affirmation of sociopathic conduct, unlimited illegal immigration, failed public policy, the resumption of a flat-lined economy, and a diffident and ineffectual pacifism in the world, where allies lapse and vacuums are filled by terrorists; and China steps confidently toward the headship of the world's nations."
Question Of The Day is from George Carlin: "What was the best thing before sliced bread?"
Monday October 22, 2018
Fall Fun: Last Thursday, I took a drive in my '39 Plymouth coupe. It was quite sunny at 11:30 am. The temperature was a pleasant-for-this-time-of-year 55 degrees.
Fall colors are just about at peak and there was much leafy eye-candy to be seen on either side of the roads. Looking up, there were innocuous, wispy clouds and light blue skies the color of a faded oxford shirt - signs that summer is well-past and winter is behind the curtain, working up a cold, wet head of steam.
The weather made me recall of Fall football games of my youth. Sunny and bright, pale blue vault, lots of leaf colors (dull green, brown, flamingo orange, maroon, bright red), temperatures which made for sweater weather by day, lined-jacket weather after the sun went down.
The Plymouth ran perfectly. I hope to get some more drives in before the season ends.
Before There Was Tesla Or Prius: The 1942 Oeuf électrique, or electric egg, ran on ... (more >>>)
Anyone Remember The BMW i3? Since the little electric Bimmer debuted over four years ago, I've only seen two on the streets.
No wonder - it hasn't sold well: "Despite moving 11,024 units in the United States in 2015, BMW looks to be on pace for half that volume this year." I'm not surprised. It's an expensive, tall, ugly little car in an SUV world. BMW, thinking that the real problem is limited range, installed a better battery pack for 2019. This improves the range from 115 miles to 153 miles - not impressive compared with its electric brethren.
Maybe BMW should work on the cars odd looks and high price.
Book Review: 'Frenemies: The Epic Disruption of the Ad Business (and Everything Else)' by Ken Auletta
The first 'real' use of advertising was in newspapers. Advertisements in colonial America were most frequently announcements of goods on hand but, even in this early period, some were well-crafted appeals and product descriptions. Benjamin Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette reached out to readers with new devices like headlines, illustrations, and advertising placed next to editorial material. Those newspapers which were built on an ad-revenue supported model grew. Patent medicine ads vied for consumer attention with large, often outrageous, promises and colorful, dramatic advertisements and were arguably the first 'persuasive' ads.
Advertising agencies, once in the business of peddling advertising space in local newspapers and a limited range of magazines, began servicing new national advertisers, designing copy and artwork and placing advertisements in the places most likely to attract buyer attention. This was done on a by-guess-and-by-golly basis. There was no science involved and little data available for guidance. Ad agencies made their money on the 15% commissions paid by publications. Over time, advertising gravitated to newer forms of media - radio, then television, then desktop internet, now mobile devices.
Over a century ago ... (more >>>)
The View From The Back Deck: When the Fall colors peak, they are beautiful to behold. I shot this photo from the back deck of our house:
Last Wednesday, my wife and took in the scenery while sipping late-afternoon cocktails on our back deck. Unfortunately, the leaves are rapidly turning brown and falling to the ground. Winter will be upon us. Sigh.
289 And Still Going Strong: Paul Bedard of the Washington Examiner listed 289 things that President Donald J. Trump has accomplished in just 20 months.
"As Trump nears the two-year mark of his historic election and conducts political rallies around the country, during which he talks up his wins in hopes it will energize Republican voters, the administration has counted up 289 accomplishments in 18 categories, capped by the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
They include 173 major wins, such as adding more than 4 million jobs, and another 116 smaller victories, some with outsize importance, such as the 83% one-year increase in arrests of MS-13 gang members."
"President Trump is a truly unique leader in American history. He's a kid from Queens who became an international business leader and made billions by getting things done when no one said he could," said Trump's 2016 campaign pollster John McLaughlin. "They told him he couldn't be president and beat the establishment and he did. For two years the establishment is telling him he can't do things in Washington and he's succeeding in spite of them. He never retreats. He doesn't back up. He's relentless. He just wins."
Like John Cameron Swayze's Timex watch, Trump just keeps on ticking.
Quote Of The Day is from Tom McMahon: "I still wish we had built ourselves a really big-ass pyramid instead of wasting all that Obama stimulus money on overpaid public school teachers and social workers. Every time a weather satellite snapped a photo, we'd feel this huge surge of very justifiable American Pride."
Thursday October 18, 2018
Twenty Years Later: In October 1998, I sold my 1956 Continental Mark II. Earlier this month, I was contacted by one of its present owners. Three owners later, the car has been driven a mere 996 miles since I sold it twenty years ago. In the six years I owned it, I put 2,075 miles on it. And had a lot more fun. It is too bad that most collectible cars end up as display pieces; I believe that cars were made to be driven.
My other Continental Mark II, a 1957 model which I owned from 1987 to 1993, got lots of mileage under my stewardship. I drove it from ... (more >>>)
I Gotcher Best Right Here: Autoblog, always in search of filler material, investigated the "best towel for drying your car."
In my opinion, the best towel for drying your car is a stolen Holiday Inn towel. I began traveling on business in the late 1960s. In those days, if you were traveling to an unfamiliar city, you'd choose one based on the Hotel Redbook (which tended to favor large downtown hotels and didn't usually list motels near the airport) or those 'Take One' paperback directories found in the lobbies of large chain hotels/motels - Holiday Inn, Marriott, Hilton, Ramada Inns, Hyatt, etc.
I tried not to stay at Holiday Inns; many were badly run with broken televisions, poorly-cleaned rooms, glacially slow and overpriced breakfast service, etc. Anytime I got screwed over by a Holiday Inn (and in those days, I was paying full rack rate), I'd steal a couple of towels. After a while, I acquired quite a collection. They were great for cleaning cars. I still have some.
I even used the white with green-lettering Holiday Inn towels regularly on ... (more >>>)
Uh-Oh: China's car market has been one of the most reliable engines of global growth for nearly two decades. Now that may be coming to an end.
Purchases of passenger vehicles by dealerships plunged for a third straight month. With trade ties with the U.S. worsening and car sales barely up for the year already, the industry is now facing the prospect of its first contraction since at least the 1990s. Passenger-car purchases by dealerships declined 12% to 2.06 million units in September. General Motors reported a 15% drop in China deliveries for the three months ending in September. Ford's China sales fell 43% year-over-year in September and are down 30% for the first nine months of the year.
Book Review: 'The V12 Engine: The Technology, Evolution And Impact Of V12-Engined Cars' by Karl Ludvigsen
We live in an age where many manufacturers are killing-off their legendary V8 engines in favor of fewer cylinders. It is therefore a great time to visit the times and siren song of the V12 motors of yore.
There is something special about a V12 motor. In his memoirs, Enzo Ferrari wrote, "I had always liked the song of 12 cylinders." This spurred him to develop many 12 cylinder Ferraris - for racing and touring - over the years.
'V-12 Engines' is a big, heavy tome - 579 pages with 580 photos, drawings, diagrams and appendices. Mr. Ludvigsen's work is thoroughly researched and profusely illustrated. Here are just some of the tidbits I learned from this book ... (more >>>)
Just Wondering: Has Elizabeth Warren ever owned a Jeep Cherokee?
President Trump Keeps Saying … that we'll get tired of all the winning. I haven't yet.
Here's another win: Stormy Daniels and her creepy porn lawyer lost their lawsuit against Donald Trump. The suit claimed President Donald Trump defamed her when he suggested she had lied about being threatened to keep quiet about their relationship. And she has been ordered to pay Trump's legal costs. Maybe Stormy can get Mexico to pay for it.
Tis The Season: We're beginning to receive holiday catalogs in our mailbox. 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 to 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 >>>)
Headline Of The Week … so far: 'Man run over by lawn mower while trying to kill son with chainsaw'.
Quote Of The Day is from George Burns: "The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending … and to have the two as close together as possible."
Tuesday October 16, 2018
Fall Stabilizing: Last Friday, I drove my '39 Plymouth coupe to town and fueled up. I also added some Sta-Bil to the gas tank. I wanted to get a fill-up before the dreaded Winter Mix arrives. It's mandatory after November 1st, but you can be sure some stations get their first load before than. The weather is getting colder - Chicago temperatures dipped into the 20s last week, Texas experienced snow, parts of North Dakota got 17 inches of white stuff and around here, the nighttime lows dipped into the 30s on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
I had forgotten one description of Fall air - 'crisp'. And indeed it was - when I was refueling at 11:30 am, the temperature was still below 50 and I was a little cold even with a light sweater and a hoodie. But the sun was out and the skies were virtually cloudless and slightly wan Fall azure in color.
After getting a couple of "Nice car!" props at the Chevron station, I fired up the Plymouth and went for a drive. Traffic was light and the Fall colors were gorgeous. I had a good drive and the car ran … ummmm … crispy.
Yesterday, I made a library run in the Plymouth and went for a back roads drive afterwards. Traffic was very light at 10:30 am but, while quite sunny, the temperature was in the mid-40s. Brrrrr.
Droptop Beauty: Mac's Motor City Garage posted a photo of a 1939 Plymouth P8 convertible with rumble seat and a side mounted spare tire. Owned by ... (more >>>)
Smooth Moves: Recently, Jack Baruth wrote a sort-of road test for Road & Track, mixing musings about the authenticity of Delta blues music and the civility of the 2018 Chevy Corvette. "The Corvette, too, has a bit of a conflict between its authentic mission and what the people really want. Track rats, internet tastemakers, and magazine writers praise the Grand Sport, drool over the ZR1, and nod approvingly at Chevrolet's commitment to the manual transmission. Then they buy a used Miata. The real customers, on the other hand, want automatic-transmission convertibles for cruise-ins and stoplight drag racing. The challenge facing GM is to develop a platform that can do both, the same way that modern blues rocker Gary Clark Jr. can cover both Robert Johnson and the Beatles in his shows."
Over the years, the Corvette, just like original blues music, has undergone a smoothing process. The same could be said for rock-and-roll, bluegrass and automatic garage-door openers.
The raw blues sound of yore has been smoothed out by less-gravelly vocals combined with ... (more >>>)
Good Question: Tom McMahon asked, "Is it possible to make a pineapple upside-down cake in Australia?"
Bad Prediction: Back in 2007, CNBC stock market tout Jim Cramer proclaimed that Sears Holdings "could be the next Berkshire Hathaway," noting that CEO and chief stockholder, Eddie Lampert "is a terrific investor and he's the brains behind Sears."
Sears Holdings filed for bankruptcy Monday, amid plunging sales and massive debt, culminating in the collapse of what was once America's largest retailer. Last Thursday, the stock share price was down to 38¢.
In 2009, I suggested this foolproof plan to make money in the stock market: Do the opposite of whatever Cramer recommends.
James Lileks wrote that nobody cares about Sears anymore. He noted that ... (more >>>)
Small Piece Of Small Feather: Pocahontas - aka: Senator Elizabeth Warren - released DNA results showing that she is 1/1,024th Native American.
So, if someone has $976.56 in a bank account, can they claim they are part-millionaire?
Elite Incivility: Responding to Hillary Clinton's comments that people "cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about", comedian, actor, car guy and podcaster Adam Carolla did not mince words. "These are the people who kick you in the shin. Then you push them in the shoulder, and they go, 'Why did you push me?'"
Carolla noted that the Left's incessant maligning of the Right - and the constant accusations of "moral bankruptcy in the form of sexism, racism, homophobia, and xenophobia - is profoundly demeaning."
"People never really think about how insulting it is. I mean, it's wrong … It's wildly insulting to those of us who just raise their families and pay their taxes and walk their dogs."
Gaza on the Willamette: There were riots in Portland last week and over the weekend. Michael Walsh wrote, "Portland has now become a lawless city, one in which the authorities, including the mayor and the cops, turn a blind eye to a horde of American brownshirts taking over the city's streets and threatening its residents." Police arrested no one on either occasion.
Our days of supporting ... (more >>>)
Question Of The Day: If flying is so safe, why do they call the airport the terminal?
Friday October 12, 2018
The Devil Is In The Details: That sums up why the Kaiser Darrin sports car was a failure. Also known as the Kaiser Darrin 161, it was an American sports car styled by Dutch Darrin and built by Kaiser Motors for the 1954 model year.
An article in The Old Motor noted, "Howard 'Dutch' Darrin, was an internationally famed American automobile stylist who also operated his design studio in Paris, France for a time. 'Dutch' designed the unique coachwork for the Kaiser Darrin. In the early-1950s, he penned the design for the distinctive Kaiser Darrin sports convertible that featured a fiberglass body shell produced by Glasspar, which featured sliding doors, and a three-position convertible top."
The Darrin was conceived as a response to ... (more >>>)
Seasons: There's a Fall chill in the air. The days are still warm but temperatures are dipping well into the 40s at night. I have to turn on lights in the morning when I get up. Darkness falls a little earlier each day.
When I drove my '39 Plymouth coupe on my favorite rural route yesterday, I noticed that the many leaves have turned to rich Autumn colors. I suspect that peak color is only a week or two away.
Skies are still blue but it is a more intense and anxious hue than the carefree bright blue of summer. Nevertheless, it was sunny, which really lit up the foliage.
Fall is my favorite season, though. It is nature contemplating the richness of its yearly accomplishments, following a blooming but messy - like a happy, muddy puppy - spring and a glorious summer that it - and we - hoped would never end.
If nature were human, it would now be sitting on the back deck, swirling a balloon glass of Pinot Noir in late afternoon. It would be wearing a light sweater and appear deep in thought.
Fall mixes comforting nostalgia with trepidation, knowing that winter - the season of death - is not far away. The Plymouth seems to know this too. It is running especially well, somehow realizing that the last ride of the year - and the bitter but good-for-ya taste of Sta-Bil - will soon arrive.
Thursday's drive was slightly marred by being stuck behind a line of cars slowed by a road striping crew. But at the next stop sign, the painters went straight, I turned right and all was well. At 1;30 pm, the temperature was only 55 degrees but, since I was wearing a sweater, I drove with the windows down.
Corn Hustle: President Trump has unveiled a pro-ethanol perk for farmers, which will include lifting a federal ban on summer sales of higher ethanol blends of gasoline. The plan is expected to be enacted before next year's summer driving season.
This is a bad idea. All-around, corn-based ethanol is more expensive than gasoline. A vehicle running on E85 needs 40% more fuel to go the same distance as one burning gasoline, and E85 would cost 9.6% more per mile driven.
Emissions from the fossil fuels used to produce the corn-based ethanol as well as the greenhouse gasses E85 produces are more pollution than gasoline. "When looking at the total pollution produced by each fuel, E85 produces 15.5% more greenhouse gasses per mile."
When winter-blend ethanol gas hits the pumps, the gas mileage on my cars drops 2-4 mpg. And ethanol fuels spell trouble for old cars.
Someday, history books will have a chapter devoted to The Great Ethanol Scam.
No Money: Faraday Future, the high-performance, whiz-bang, swooopy electric car introduced at CES 2017, is out of cash. Again.
According to a filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange, the intended Tesla challenger went through $800 million between December 2017 and July 2018. In July, they signed an agreement with an investor for an advance of $700 million, but that payment has not come through and now some suppliers haven’t been paid in weeks.
I often criticize Tesla but at least they’re actually producing cars for sale.
Dirtier Than You Thought: Emissions from most diesel cars in Europe greatly exceed laboratory testing levels.
A new MIT study reports that "Volkswagen is not the only auto manufacturer to make diesel cars that produce vastly more emissions on the road than in laboratory tests. The study, published this month in Atmospheric Environment, finds that in Europe, 10 major auto manufacturers produced diesel cars, sold between 2000 and 2015, that generate up to 16 times more emissions on the road than in regulatory tests - a level that exceeds European limits but does not violate any EU laws."
Don't Forget To Get Your Flu Shot:
I got my flu shot last week and had a mini-flu reaction for a couple of days. But it's better than the full-blown version.
Conspiracy Theory: Treasury Bill action rattled the stock market this week. Someone was dumping lots of them, making prices tumble and increasing the yield. China owns lots of U.S. debt in the form of T-Bills. Was this an attempt to scare investors and pressure President Trump to back off tariffs on China? I wonder.
Book Review: 'The Mirage Factory: Illusion, Imagination, and the Invention of Los Angeles' by Gary Krist
In 300 pages (plus bibliography, extensive notes and index), author Krist weaves together the true stories of three people ... (more >>>)
Thought For Today: I wonder if clouds ever look down on us and say, "Hey look! That one's shaped like an idiot."
Wednesday October 10, 2018
There Are No Real Self-Driving Cars … but in the world of semi-kinda-self driving vehicles, Cadillac bested Tesla, according to Consumer Reports.
CR noted that the Cadillac Super Cruise system did "the best job of balancing high-tech capabilities with ensuring that the car is operated safely and that the driver is paying attention." Consumer Reports director of auto testing Jake Fisher said, "We have been evaluating these systems on a case-by-case basis for a few years, but we are at a tipping point where they are now going mainstream. Stacked up against each other, you can really see significant differences. The best systems balance capability with safeguards - making driving easier and less stressful in the right situations. Without proper safeguards, overreliance on the system is too easy, which puts drivers at risk."
Cars, Cars And More Cars: Randal O’Toole (aka: The Antiplanner) wrote, "The number of households that lacked access to a motor vehicle declined in 2017 as did the number with only one vehicle. Meanwhile, the number with two or more rapidly grew. In fact, the more vehicles, the faster the growth: the number with two vehicles grew by 1.4%; the number with three grew by 2.8%; the number with four grew by 4.5%; and the number with five or more grew by an astounding 7.2%."
"Although transit seemingly has a natural market among people whose households have no vehicles, only 41.1% of workers with no vehicles took transit to work in 2017, down from 41.7% in 2016. This is heavily weighted by New York City, where 73% of people with no vehicles take transit to work. In many places, however, the number of people with no cars but nevertheless drove alone to work outnumbered the number with no cars who rode transit to work."
How do people with no cars drive alone to work? Randal has a theory: "I don't know for sure, but I suspect most of them use employer-supplied vehicles. In any case, this is just one more indicator of transit's declining relevance."
For those graph enthusiasts among you, he has posted one showing vehicle ownership rates over time from 1960.
Oops! ... (more >>>)
Remember When Truck Models Were Named For Their Load Capacity? Or Size? The 2019 Ram Rebel 12 pickup is named for the size of its 12-inch touchscreen.
"The Rebel 12 starts at $48,685, including destination charges - about $3,000 more than the base Rebel." I'm showing my age by disclosing that the model-name 'Rebel' conjures up a fuel-injected '57 Rambler sedan.
Holy Antarctica, Batman! Al Gore has actually endorsed a penguin for Congress. We don't need The Penguin; we already have enough villains in Congress.
Random Thought: When I see her on television, I often wonder if political commentator Bre Payton is the daughter of one of Robert Palmer's Patrick Nagalesque backing 'musician' chicks from that 1986 'Addicted To Love' video.
Quote Of The Day is from Greg Gutfield: "The media are good news fire extinguishers."
Monday October 8, 2018
What A Difference 15 Minutes Makes: Last Thursday morning, I had a medical appointment in Vancouver, requiring a 12-hour fast. Afterwards, I piloted my Lexus home in bright sunshine, grabbed a quick breakfast and went out to take a drive in my '39 Plymouth coupe. In that short time (10:00 to 10:15 am), the sun had disappeared and heavy clouds had rolled in.
I took off anyway in the chilly 49 degree weather. I did have a good drive remembering that, as a 16 year-old, I drove my other '39 Plymouth coupe on lots of cloudy days. Traffic was light and I had a pleasant drive.
The weather could have been worse - the rain began Friday and continued through the weekend.
Strange Vision: The BMW iNext show car, an all-electric and autonomous crossover set to make its debut in 2021, is supposed to offer BMW's vision of its future.
Chairman Harald Krueger said, "The iNext project will provide our building blocks for the future, from which the entire company and all of its brands are set to benefit."
Car & Driver pointed out some of the iNext's features: "Absurdly large 24-inch wheels and suicide doors? Check. A lounge-style cabin where passengers roam about without the burden of buckling up? Got it. Seat fabric you caress with your fingertips to play a song? Now we're onto something new."
"Beneath the rear bench with its 1960s-style green upholstery, which resembles Don Draper's office furniture, is a matrix of sensors and fiber optics that respond to touch, handwriting, or anything BMW thinks you'll want to trace onto a seat. Doodle a music note with your pinky, and the pattern illuminates through the fabric; the car might then play Bon Jovi. Swipe with a few fingers to crank up “It's My Life,” that classic hit that BMW passengers in the previous century had to buy in a store."
I can neither get excited about autonomous vehicles nor electric ones and I find the styling of the iNext odd and offputting. I can't get past that pig-snout grille.
Maybe the future isn't so great, after all.
Going Home: After four years in New York City, Cadillac is moving its headquarters back to Detroit. Makes sense to me. Everybody in New York City uses taxis, Uber, the subway or black car services to get around town.
Too bad, Cadillac couldn't have taken the millions they spend on this stupid move East and spent it on improving product quality. And giving its offerings real names like DeVille and Eldorado.
Mo Money: According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, car insurance premiums have risen sharply in recent years, increasing 33% between 2010 and 2016. Much of it is caused by higher payout claims per accident, because cars are more complex and cost more to repair.
Book Review: 'Fins: Harley Earl, the Rise of General Motors, and the Glory Days of Detroit' by William Knoedelseder
It is difficult to imagine what the automobile world would have been like without a Harley Earl. Yes, there were other talented stylists: Gordon Buehrig (Duesenberg Model J, 1935 Auburn 851 boattail speedster, coffin-nosed 1936 Cord 810/812), E.T. Gregorie (1936 Lincoln Zephyr, 1939 Mercury, 1940 Lincoln Continental, 1940 Ford), Frank Hershey, Virgil Exner - but all were trained by Mister Earl, as he was known. Edsel Ford was a talented guy who recognized good taste enough to hire some of these designers but he was browbeaten so badly by his father, crazy Henry Ford, that most of his ideas never came to fruition.
Many good designers left General Motors because, while Earl had a good style sense and could squeeze the best out of designers, he was also a tough taskmaster - a hard-charging workaholic who expected all of his employees to work as many hours as he did. He bullied his subordinates and gave them little or no individual credit for their styling breakthroughs.
Harley Earl brought style to Detroit; the automobile was ... (more >>>)
Short Days Ahead: I took this photo from our back deck, while cooking a filet mignon on the 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 sweater. But I drove away the cold with some 2010 Cougar Crest Cabernet Franc. By 7:10 pm, it was completely dark.
Unscientific Science: John Tasioulas reported that "CERN has suspended an Italian theoretical physicist after he allegedly denied that physics suffers from a misogynist bias and criticized affirmative-action policies." CERN is the European Organization for Nuclear Research. The organization operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
Science is about brains and talent, not diversity.
Often Called 'The Honorary Mayor of Portland': Locally renowned restaurateur Sherwood Dudley - aka Mr. Hospitality - has died at age 82. Working at Chicago's Mr. Kelly's Comedy Club, Sherwood caught the eye of Hugh Hefner. Sherwood quickly rose through the ranks at the Playboy Club in Chicago and was instrumental in establishing locations in New York City and Los Angeles, becoming the first African-American to manage a Playboy Club.
In 1983, Sherwood moved to Portland, Oregon and worked at Simon's as well as 13 Coins restaurants. Later, he was the affable head maitre d' at a variety of upscale eateries including the late, great Couch Street Fish House, El Gaucho Steakhouse and Wilf's Restaurant at Union Train Station. RIP.
Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep … Retail chain Mattress Firm, which has been grappling with declining sales amid an overexpansion and a scandal at its parent company, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
How do any of these places stay in business? I am one of the 3% of Americans who lives greater than 500 yards from a mattress store. There are two of them in the small town of Battle Ground, WA.
Quote Of The Day is from Stewie Griffin on ice cream: "No sprinkles. For every sprinkle I find, I shall kill you."
Thursday October 4, 2018
It Looks And Feels Like October: On Wednesday morning, the temperature was 38 degrees at 7:30. The skies were blue and nearly cloudless but the heater has been running at night and Summer is definitely in the rear-view mirror.
At 11:00 am, I fired up my '39 Plymouth business coupe and went for a drive. The outside temperature was barely 50 degrees and there is much more Fall color than I saw a mere five days ago.
Gas History: I've owned my 1939 Plymouth since 1994. The anal-retentive engineer in me keeps a record of all fuel purchases in a spiral notebook. (I have one in each car.) This September, I paid $3.769/gallon for Chevron Supreme with Techron - triple what I paid in 1994.
I've posted a year-by-year comparison chart here.
September Auto Sales: Several automakers posted a hefty drop in U.S. new vehicle sales for September, caused in part by a drop in sales in areas hit by Hurricane Florence and a difficult comparison to September 2017 when consumers rushed to replace vehicles damaged by Hurricane Harvey.
U.S. light-vehicle deliveries last month fell more than 6% in September to a seasonally-adjusted, annualized sales rate (SAAR) of 17.45 million units. Light trucks accounted for 69% of new-vehicle retail sales, according to J.D. Power. "September was a bloodbath for cars," Cox Automotive analyst Michelle Krebs said. "They dropped like a rock."
General Motors posted U.S. third-quarter sales of 694,638 vehicles, a decrease of 11% compared with the third quarter of 2017. Fleet deliveries amounted to about 21% of quarterly sales. The Chevy Silverado pickup and Equinox sport utility vehicle were the company's two best-selling vehicles during the quarter. On a monthly basis, Chevrolet sales fell 20% to 159,171 vehicles. GMC sales declined 12% to 41,584 trucks. Cadillac sales dropped 11% to 12,409 vehicles. Buick sales declined 10% to 15,101 vehicles.
Ford Motor Company's September sales fell by 11% year-over-year to 197,404 Ford and Lincoln vehicles. Passenger car sales fell 26% while sport utility vehicle sales fell 3% and truck sales dropped 10%. Ford's best-selling SUV, the Escape, posted sales of 20,398 units in September. Sales of the Lincoln brand fell by 7% year-over-year to 8,168 vehicles, as sales of Lincoln cars dropped 12%. Car sales totaled 2,543 units in the month and SUV sales totaled 5,625 units, down by 5% year-over-year. Navigator sales rose 77% to 1,257 units.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles outsold Ford Motor Company in September 2018. FCA's September sales increased by 15% year-over-year to 199,819 vehicles. The Jeep brand posted a sales increase of 14% as sales of the new Cherokee rose 87% to nearly 22,000 units and Compass sales jumped 46% to 16,339 units. The Ram brand of pickups and other light trucks had a sales jump of 9% to 56,447 units. Chrysler brand sales dropped 7% y-o-y to 14,683 vehicles and Fiat sales tumbled 46% to just 1,185. Alfa Romeo brand sales rose 29% to 1,639 vehicles; the Stelvio crossover accounted for the majority of those sales with 864 vehicles sold. Dodge brand sales soared 41% to 42,101 units in September. Sales of the Journey jumped 48% and Challenger sales rose 14%. Caravan sales totaled 13,829 units last month.
Toyota sales dropped 11% to 178,501 vehicles. Prius sales fell 21% to 7,378 hybrids. Avalon sales were down 14% to 2,225 sedans. The biggest seller in Toyota's lineup remains the RAV4; 37,440 found buyers last month - a drop of 12%. Honda sales slid 8% to 119,167 vehicles. Honda's most popular model, the CR-V, experienced a sales decline of 1% to 30,587 SUVs. The redesigned Pilot experienced a sales leap of 50% to 15,464 units. Nissan sales declined 13% to 110,283 vehicles. Subaru sales declined 1% to 57,044 Subies. 56,940 Hyundais found buyers last month - an increase of 3%, while Kia sales dropped 2% to 51,503 units. Volkswagen sales fell 5% to 30,555 VWs. Mazda sales declined 17% to 21,257 vehicles.
Mercedes-Benz sales fell 15% to 30,817 Benzes. Tesla sold 29,975 electric vehicles - an almost six-fold increase over last September. (I saw my first Model X on I-5 Tuesday; it looked taller and squatter as it passed me.) BMW sales increased 1% to 25,908 Bimmers. Lexus sales declined 6% to 24,597 units. Only 668 LS flagship sedans found buyers last month. Acura sales increased 4% to 13,511 units. The RDX crossover is Acura's most popular offering; sales increased 54% to 5,699 vehicles last month. Infiniti sales declined 2% to 12,536 vehicles. Volvo sold 8,715 vehicles, an increase of 10% over last year. 6.966 Land Rovers found buyers last month - an increase of 9%. Jaguar sales declined 38% to 2,040 units. Genesis sales fell 76% to only 419 cars.
Only 98 little Smart cars found homes in September - a drop of 59% from last year. Rolls Royce sold 90 vehicles last month.
Not Every Volvo Is From China Or Sweden: The 2019 Volvo S60 sedan is now officially in production at the carmaker's new 2.3 million square-foot, $1.1 billion assembly plant in Berkeley County, South Carolina.
"Volvo will export half the sedans built at the plant to other countries, with global deliveries beginning in spring 2019." Volvo will add production of a second model, the next-generation XC90, in 2021. With two model lines, the automaker will be able to make 150,000 cars a year at the plant.
Money Bug: A black 1964 Volkswagen Beetle sedan with 23 original miles on it is posted for sale on Hemmings for $1,000,000.
What If … 'The Love Bug' had been a 1968 movie about a classic Bugatti and 26 year-old Michele Lee's part was played by 25 year-old Catherine Deneuve and 35 year-old Dean Jones' part was played by 36 year-old Steve McQueen?
Book Review: 'The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics' by Salena Zito and Brad Todd
The 2016 presidential election was indeed a revolt by the common people against the elites - Republicans, Democrats, Uncaring Bureaucrats with cushy, protected government jobs (Lois Lerner, for instance), Corrupt Corporate Insiders, Too-Big-To-Fail Banks, the IRS and others - who, over the years, have betrayed the people's trust.
In 266-plus pages, this book succinctly ... (more >>>)
Good News: Last week, I visited the Oncology Center for the usual blood test, which measures cancer markers - carcinoembryonic antigen. Mine is now 1.1, which remains well within normal range (0-5.0 µg/L according to my oncologist). My next test is scheduled for early January 2019. (permalink)
Good Times: Recently, Scott Grannis wrote, "A person making an average income in the U.S. enjoys all the advantages that our nation's net worth has created. Regardless of who owns the country's wealth, everyone benefits from the infrastructure, the equipment, the computers, the offices, the homes, the factories, the research facilities, the workers, the teachers, the families, the software, and the brains that sit in homes and offices all over the country and arrange the affairs of the nation so as to produce over $20 trillion of income per year. Would the average wage-earner (or, for that matter, the average billionaire) in the U.S. enjoy the same quality of life if he or she earned the same amount while living in a poor country? I seriously doubt it."
Humorous Comparison Of The Day is from Dave Burge: Voting Booths - The Arcade Claw Machines Of Democracy. Jonah Goldberg once wrote, "Voting is the government's way of getting your fingerprints on the murder weapon."
Tuesday October 2, 2018
Driving Past Summer: Fall is definitely here. The days are still warm but temperatures dip into the 40s at night. The heater kicks on and starts rumbling about 10:00 pm.
Darkness falls a bit earlier each day. If I forget to get the mail before dinner, I have to bring a flashlight to locate the mailbox's keyhole.
When I drove my '39 Plymouth coupe along my favorite rural route last Friday, I noticed that some leaves are starting to turn. Others are still green but losing their glossy lister.
At 11:45 am, it was a summery 70 degrees outdoors with bright blue, cloud-free skies. Mt. St. Helens has a top coating of gray-brown - a dusting of snow barely covering the dirt and rock. This will soon change as October moseys along.
Speaking of moseying, I had a good drive in my old coupe and got a hat tip and wave from a flagger at a construction zone. Of course, it wasn't about me; it was about the Plymouth.
Surprising When You Consider The Narrow Streets And Tight Parking: Small SUVs and crossovers are now the fastest-growing market segment in Europe, gaining 20% in sales volume during the first half of 2018 in a market that was up by just 2.5% overall.
"SUVs and crossovers accounted for one-third of European sales during the first half (of 2018)." On the other hand, driven by a 61% "rise in demand for the second-generation Nissan Leaf, electric car sales grew by 37.7% to 105,736 units from January to June."
Silly Me … I Thought Electric Cars Would Be Cheap: I remember in decades past, there were numerous bearded, earnest, cheap and ecologically-conscious young men who would buy a semi-derelict VW Beetle, scrounge an electric motor from a junkjard, wire four lead-acid batteries together and make an electric car for less than $800 outta pocket.
Those days are apparently gone. Electric cars are now premium vehicles. And if you don't believe Elon Musk, just look at the Audi E-Tron mid-size SUV. Peter DeLorenzo observed, "The E-Tron is available in three trim levels: Premium Plus ($74,800), Prestige ($81,800) and First Edition ($86,700). And remember, this is for an Audi Q5-sized SUV." Ouch.
Peter continued: "The marketing and advertising of fully-electric vehicles is going to be nothing short of the biggest single challenge facing automotive marketers in the coming years … the vast majority of the cars and trucks being sold over the next ten years will be traditional, ICE-powered vehicles." Ones that you can full-charge (fill-up) at any gas station in three minutes or less.
If you still want one of those electric Audis, the company proclaimed, "Customers can configure their E-Tron and reserve their vehicle with a fully refundable $1,000 reservation fee ahead of delivery in mid-2019."
I Used To Think ... Elon Musk was the 21st Century Preston Tucker. Now that his crazy behavior has resulted in SEC securities fraud charges, I'm thinking he's the 21st Century Howard Hughes. Has anybody checked the length of his toenails lately?
No Bucket Truck Needed Here: A 1910 Philadelphia Electric Co. streetlight maintenance vehicle made light bulb changing a snap ... (more >>>)
Curry Optional: The 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLC compact crossover will be imported from Pune, India.
"Ford has also been importing its EcoSport crossover from its plant in Chennai, India, the first car built in that country to be sold stateside."
Better Than A CD: In the first nine months of 2018, the S&P 500 Index - with dividends reinvested - returned over 11.5%.
Will Red USMCA Hats Be Available For Sale? NAFTA is dead. Long live the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement - henceforth to be known as USMCA. "These measures will support many hundreds of thousands American jobs," President Trump said in remarks at the White House. "It means far more American jobs, and these are high-quality jobs." The presdent also said that this agreement would restore the U.S. to a "manufacturing powerhouse."
I'm all for that - I once wrote, "Once upon a time, the U.S. exported everything from die casting machinery, earthmovers, agricultural equipment and, yes, trolley cars. All were high value-added products manufactured entirely here, bringing in new currency to the U.S." And: "Manufacturing is vital to the economy of the United States because it is a generator of wealth. Taking low-cost raw materials (wood, baking flour, steel) and processing them to produce much more expensive items (furniture, cakes, automobiles) creates profit. This in turn produces prosperity - for individuals and for a nation.
Furthermore, if the nation's products are unique and interesting enough that people in other countries want to buy them, fresh capital is brought into the United States. Such capital can used to expand capacity, improve product offerings and increase efficiency - these things make our wares even more competitive and attractive in the world market."
Changing NAFTA was one of the president's top campaign promises. He even threatened to simply exit the deal, which he frequently called one of the "worst" deals ever. Mexico got on board pretty quickly. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau balked petulantly. Donald Trump gave him the same treatment he used on recalcitrant drywall sub-contractors during his construction days and Trudeau quietly came around.
The U.S. got a lot in the 16-year deal, including a review period after six years. USMCA raises the U.S.-Mexico-Canada content requirements for new vehicles from 62.5% to 75% to avoid tariffs starting in 2020. The agreement also boosts U.S. access to Canada's dairy market.
The Day Lindsey Graham Grew A Pair: I've been reluctant to write abut last week's circus known as the Kavanaugh Hearings.
Roger Simon wrote that "it dawned on me I was watching an event that I thought was political being transformed into a spiritual one.
Nothing was as expected. A real rape had taken place but it wasn't the one everyone was talking about. It was simultaneously a rape of Judge Kavanaugh, his family, and the American people themselves. The collateral damage was Dr. Ford, her friends, and her family. And the perpetrator was the Democratic Party, principally their Judiciary Committee members, their ranking member, and the minority leader."
The Republican Senate, generally a bunch of shuffling, white-shoe do-nothings finally had enough. Lindsey Graham, a man whose ... (more >>>)
Quote of the Day is from Thomas Sowell: "It is amazing how many people think they are doing blacks a favor by exempting them from standards that others are expected to meet."
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