A Blog About Cars ... And More
Friday November 30, 2018
AutoSketch: 1958 GM Firebird III concept car - Inspired By Jets
The 1950s were a time of invention. Considering all of the game-changing new products developed for the Second World War, the possibilities seemed limitless. General Motors had been researching the feasibility of gas turbine engines in cars since the 1930s. In the early 1950s, the company began building an actual engine.
By 1953, the research team had produced the Firebird I, which looked like a jet aircraft with wheels. It was the first gas turbine-powered car tested in the U.S. The Firebird II, introduced in 1956, was a more practical design - a four-seat, family car. It also had a gas-turbine powerplant producing a respectable 200 hp.
The third design, the Firebird III, was built in 1958 and exhibited at the 1959 GM Motorama. It featured ... (more >>>)
Hot Wheels - A Little History: Larry Wood started designing Hot Wheels toy cars a year after they first hit the shelves in mid-1968.
In an interview, Larry said, "Like every toy, it survives three years. Two or three years into it, it was dying down. Hot Wheels was still a fledgling name in the 1970s. Barbie's horse outsold the entire car line at one point, and the brand struggled at times. But then the first kids who got Hot Wheels as gifts turned into adults with money of their own."
"The fathers, 15 or 20 years into it, they started collecting the Hot Wheels and it took off on fire. I had a feeling that the parents were buying for themselves and not for their kids."
I remember when Hot Wheels were introduced by Mattel. Sporting flashy metallic 'Spectraflame' paint jobs and modeling cool American iron, they instantly made all Matchbox offerings look dowdy. Matchbox saw its U.S. sales drop 75% after the introduction of Hot Wheels.
Mattel's sleek little cars offered revolutionary features, including low-friction wheels and cool California styling. Chevy Camaros, custom VW Beetles and Ed Roth's Beatnik Bandit show rod were some of the early models produced. I bought several for my son when he was a toddler.
To me, the real brilliance of Hot Wheels was the track. For realism's sake, it should have been colored dull asphalt black but some unsung genius at Mattel suggested bright orange, making it visible down the block and creating instant envy for Hot Wheelless kids in every neighborhood.
The polyethylene track also made excellent weaponry - good for sword fights, terrorizing stray animals and generalized thrashing of younger siblings.
Another Unfulfilled Obama Promise: Six years ago, President Barack Obama promised to buy a Chevy Volt after his presidency. "I got to get inside a brand-new Chevy Volt fresh off the line," Obama announced to a cheering crowd of United Auto Workers activists. "Even though Secret Service wouldn't let me drive it. But I liked sitting in it. It was nice. I'll bet it drives real good. And five years from now when I'm not president anymore, I'll buy one and drive it myself."
Too late - the plug-in electric-gas hybrid Volt sedan is dead. In the first nine months of 2019, Chevrolet sold only 13,242 Volts. Production will cease in March 2019. (permalink)
Question Of The Day: Why is 'abbreviated' such a long word?
Wednesday November 28, 2018
Book Review: 'Hot Rod Empire: Robert E. Petersen and the Creation of the World's Most Popular Car and Motorcycle Magazines' by Matt Stone and Gigi Carleton
This book chronicles Robert E. Petersen's rise from a MGM publicist to a man who created a publishing empire based on his interests, mostly cars. While Petersen was responsible for many magazines, including Hot Rod, Motor Trend, Motor Life, Car Craft, Rod and Custom, Teen, Cycle Guns and Ammo, as well as other periodicals and even books, the focus of this book is on Hot Rod, his first publication launched in 1948, despite the fact that Motor Trend, which debuted in September 1949, was a more successful publication. That's OK with me because I purchased many issues of both over the years.
I bought my first car magazine in 1954; it was Motor Trend. I have now realized that, if I had taken all the money I've spent on pulpy car magazines over the past 60-plus years and invested it in a good no-load mutual fund, I'd probably have enough money to buy a couple of new Bentley Continentals. But, without Petersen's magazines, would I have been knowledgeable enough to select a Bentley?
Aside from Motor Trend, I also used to purchase Motor Life. Petersen discontinued it in 1961 because it didn't have the sales growth of its sister publication. I could never figure out what Motor Life's identity was ... MT seemed to do a better job. I used to love Motor Trend's spy shots of future cars. Or photos of the latest concept cars from various auto shows.
MT's first editor, Walt Woron, didn't get much coverage in the book but he was an enthusiastic hot-rodder and former racer at SCTA dry-lakes events was also a connoisseur of fine machinery. Walt once owned a concours-winning 1948 Lincoln Continental cabriolet. To distinguish MT from Hot Rod, the only other Petersen auto publication at that time, Walt sought to shape it in the image of Motor, a British car mag, with a broad editorial menu that included testing of new automobiles. Woron noted, "We started with just a stopwatch and a clipboard, using the car's speedometer as our primary instrument. It wasn't very scientific."
Petersen Publishing Company would grow to become ... (more >>>)
Downsizing: General Motors will lay off 14,700 factory and white-collar workers in North America and put five plants up for possible closure as it restructures to cut costs and "focus more on autonomous and electric vehicles."
The reduction includes 8,100 white-collar workers, some of whom will take buyouts and others who will be laid off. Most of the affected factories build cars that won't be sold in the U.S. after next year. Plants without products include assembly plants in Detroit; Lordstown, Ohio; and Oshawa, Ontario. (Canadian news sources reported that the Oshawa plant is toast and its 2,200 employees are out of work.) Also affected are transmission factories in Warren, Michigan, as well as Baltimore.
More than 6,000 factory workers could lose jobs in the U.S. and Canada, although some could transfer to truck and SUV plants.
"The company's actions are said to be in response to market-related volume declines in cars." Ya think? The changes are expected "to significantly increase capacity utilization," according to GM's announcement. "The Oshawa plant currently builds low-volume Cadillac XTS and Chevy Impala passenger cars, along with Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. Detroit-Hamtramck builds Chevy Volt, Impala, Cadillac CT6 and Buick LaCrosse vehicles. Lordstown produces the Chevy Cruze exclusively." Aside from the two pickups, none of these vehicles is a big seller for GM and these six sedans will almost certainly be discontinued.
As recently as 2012, passenger cars made up more than 50% of all U.S. new vehicle sales. Through the first nine months of 2018, that had fallen to a little over 31%.
In making the announcement, CEO Mary Barra used the euphemism "right-size." That's a big clue about what's really going on - sedan sales are falling off a cliff. GM has been building vehicles that people don't want. GM seems to think that people want "autonomous and electric vehicles." The company may have another unpleasant surprise coming its way. Chevrolet sells only 1,500 or so examples of its all-electric Bolt each month, slightly more than its manly Corvette sports car which is definitely not electrically powered.
Anyone remember when General Motors was the King Of Vehicle Marketing? Back in the day - GM was market-focused and customer-driven. No more. Now it's all about internalized navel-gazing and cost-cutting. Just as General Motors ate Ford's lunch in the 1920s by being customer-oriented and focusing on marketable product improvements, Honda and Toyota cleaned The General's clock by doing exactly the same thing in the 1980s and '90s.
It seems to me that General Motors began to lose its automotive passion when the government got seriously involved in regulating automobile design and performance in the early 1970s. Things slid downhill from there.
There's a rule for success in business: "Do what you love; love what you do." GM doesn't seem passionate about its vehicles anymore.
Cord Cutting: Satellite and cable TV providers lost 1.1 million subscribers from July through September this year.
DirecTV lost 359,600 satellite subscribers during the quarter, while adding only 49,000 new subscribers to DirecTV Now, its streaming TV service. DirecTV still has 19.6 million pay-TV customers.
Sports network ESPN has lost 2 million domestic subscribers over the course of 2018. ESPN currently has 86 million subscribers.
Just One Word: The Oxford Dictionary proclaimed that its Word of the Year for 2018 is "toxic."
"In 2018, toxic added many strings to its poisoned bow becoming an intoxicating descriptor for the year's most talked about topics. It is the sheer scope of its application, as found by our research, that made toxic the stand-out choice for the Word of the Year title.
Our data shows that, along with a 45% rise in the number of times it has been looked up on oxforddictionaries.com, over the last year the word toxic has been used in an array of contexts, both in its literal and more metaphorical senses."
Sounds like a contrived, toxic selection to me. And toxic is used in a lot of TV dialogue, too.
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "The idea behind giving professors lifetime tenure is that this will enable them to speak out freely. But it would be hard to name any other occupation with a more cowardly record than academics, who have been giving in to politically correct campus bullies ever since the 1960s."
Monday November 26, 2018
Ten Cars That Changed Everything: I have compiled a list of ten automobiles which have had the most impact on the auto industry (and, in many cases, society). These aren't necessarily my favorite cars (they're probably not all your favorites either) and many weren't automotive best sellers. That's OK, because this isn't a popularity contest. Rather, it is a recognition of those cars which had the most profound impact.
And the winners are ... (more >>>)
Expert Opinion: Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder and outside tech adviser, believes that self-driving vehicles are not realistic.
"I wanted to be part of this lead in to autonomous driving," Wozniak said, when he purchased a Tesla for his own use. "I wanted to be a part of that crowd and I kept upgrading my Tesla to one that would have a camera and radar. And then one that would have eight cameras and a radar, because the first one would never do it. And then I gave up and I said it's really not going to happen. ... Tesla makes so many mistakes,. It really convinces me that auto piloting and auto steering car driving itself is not going to happen."
Dead Sex Symbol's Wheels Attracts Big Bucks: Marilyn Monroe's black 1956 Thunderbird fetched a whopping $490,000 at a memorabilia auction in California.
The T-Bird was "owned and driven from 1956 through 1962 by one of Hollywood's greatest screen goddesses." The top current value of a similar, non-celebrity example of the Thunderbird in perfect Concours condition is $85,200, according to the Hagerty valuation guide.
Musical Ageism: Chris Queen posted an article listing the "10 Most Interesting One-Hit Wonders in Pop Music History."
There is definite age bias in this article. The earliest song on the list was from 1970. What about 'Hot Rod Lincoln'? It dates from the mid-1950s. Then there's the original 'Mockingbird' released in 1963 by Charlie and Inez Foxx (as opposed to the lame white-bread '70s cover by James Taylor and Carly Simon). Or 1938's musical novelty, 'Flat Foot Floogie' by Slim and Slam, 'Deep Purple' by Nino Tempe and April Stevens (1963) as well as 1964's unforgettable 'Surfin' Bird' by The Trashmen.
And there's 1959's 'Tragedy' by Thomas Wayne and the Delons … I could go on and on. The world of one-hit wonders began waaaaaay before 1970.
Devices Beat Bricks: The Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday kickoff of the U.S. holiday shopping season showed the increasing preference for online purchases, as more Americans opted to stay home and use their smartphones while sales and traffic at brick-and-mortar stores declined.
Online sales rose more than 23 percent, crossing $6 billion on Black Friday. On the other hand, net sales at brick-and-mortar stores fell 4-7% over the two days, while traffic fell 5-9%, continuing the trend of recent years.
The National Retail Federation forecast U.S. holiday retail sales in November and December will increase 4.3-4.8% over 2017, for a total of $717.45 billion to $720.89 billion. That compares with an average annual increase of 3.9% over the past five years.
Anchors Aweigh: James Lileks reminisced about mall anchor stores and the nearby lesser establishments - aka: "all the surrounding stores in the strip malls that hung around it like prostitutes on the wharf where the big ship was tethered."
Quote Of The Day is from George Carlin: "Political correctness is racism pretending to be manners."
Thursday November 22, 2018
Happy Thanksgiving: I hope you enjoy your turkey dinner today. And I trust it's better than this:
As Homer Simpson would say, "Mmmmmmm. Cobbler."
Wednesday November 21, 2018
Pre-Thanksgiving Cruise: Rain is in the offing, starting today, so on Monday, I fired up my ’39 Plymouth coupe and went for a drive. At 1:00 pm, the temperature was barely 50 degrees but the sun was shining and the skies were late-Fall pale blue - that odd color for which there's no Crayola match. But it was clear enough that I could easily see Mt. St. Helens with its first coat of snow.
The joke among those living west of the Cascades in the Pacific Northwest is that it only rains once a year - from November 1st to July 15th. But the roads were dry Monday afternoon ... and I'll take what I can get. Traffic was a bit heavier than usual but it didn't bother me. I had an enjoyable, end-of-season drive.
Colors are past peak, although several stubborn sugar maple trees were still clutching to a scattering of bright red leaves. Emily Dickinson wrote of November, "The noons are more laconic and the sunsets sterner." Yep. Winter is coming.
Coolest Pedal Car Ever ... (more >>>)
How Can You Lose?! Let's see, Uber often pays their drivers less than minimum wage, makes them use their own vehicles, is the biggest player in its market and still manages to lose big money. Uber has no plant, little - if any - equipment, very few employees, minimal R&D expenses - where's the money going? Cocaine? Expensive hookers? Dump truck loads of giant Toblerone chocolate bars?
In the past, Uber has used the Vinny & Tony excuse to explain its losses.
"Uber's in a bit of trouble after quarterly losses surged to $1.1 billion dollars. The ride-hailing giant has watched its sales growth dwindle this year, despite an expensive attempt to promote its global expansion. It's not the kind of thing you want to see from a company at the forefront of "revolutionizing" the automotive sector, especially since so many automakers seem keen on copying aspects of its business model."
It's a mystery to me, especially since Uber is basically an app that collects a flat fee plus a percentage on every ride. If the ride is unprofitable, it's the driver's loss. So, why does Uber keep hemorrhaging so many dollars?
And .... He's Out! Carlos Ghosn, who built what is now known as the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance into the world's largest car conglomerate, has been fired by Nissan and has been arrested by Japanese authorities for tax fraud.
"The allegations mark the fall of one of the most powerful men in the auto industry. Brazilian-born, but of Lebanese descent, Ghosn started out in the tire business, working for the French-based Michelin for 18 years. He was recruited to help turn around Paris-based automaker Renault in 1996, quickly ordering a radical restructuring that put the company back in the black barely a year later."
"This was a man who was performing brilliantly, keeping all these balls in the air and driving the company forward," said Joe Phillippi, a veteran auto analyst and head of AutoTrends Consulting.
Heros of all kinds sometimes have feet of clay. On the other hand, I'll remain skeptical about this matter until more facts come out, including Ghosn's side of the story.
55 Years Tomorrow: For people of my age, there are two dates that will forever resonate as tragic: September 11, 2001 and November 22, 1963.
It's hard to believe that so many years have passed since John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas.
Whenever I watch television specials about the Kennedy years, I find the film clips and photo stills to be a time capsule. Fifty-five years later, the clothes people wore, the hairstyles, the cars on the road, the store signage - all are fit for antique stores or museums - simply remind me of what things were like when I was young.
On the 50th anniversary of the assassination, I shared some of my memories. That 2013 article, 'Remembering Camelot', is posted here.
Book Review: 'West Like Lightning: The Brief, Legendary Ride of the Pony Express' by Jim DeFelice
The Pony Express was a service delivering messages, newspapers, and mail. It was founded in 1859. During its 18 months of operation, it reduced the time for messages to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to about 10 days. In 1860 ... (more >>>)
Getting In The Spirit Of The Season: Dave Burge suggested, "For Black Friday, Walmart should have Mad Max-style obesity scooters."
Quote Of The Day is from Billy Graham: "The only time my prayers are never answered is on the golf course."
Monday November 19, 2018
If Harbor Freight Sold Cars ... (more >>>)
In Russia, Car Googles You: In the U.S., Canada, Australia and many other lands, more people search on Google for Toyota than any other brand of vehicle. In fact, Toyota was the most searched in more countries (57) than any other auto brand. In China, most people searched for Tesla. In Brazil, people mostly searched for Honda. In Ireland and Russia, Hyundai was the most searched-for car brand.
Wait, I Thought Bosch Just Made Spark Plugs: I used buy them for my old '63 Beetle when I was in college. Fifty-some years later, Bosch and Mercedes-Benz are partnering to launch an autonomous ride-sharing pilot program in San Jose, California starting late next year. WTF?
Then again, I remember that, fifty-some years ago, General Electric was a real powerhouse of a company, maker of appliances - large and small, turbines, big electric motors, locomotives, mainframe computers, streetlights and Lexan plastic, not some flophouse loser stock priced at eight bucks or so.
Rest In Peace: Singer and entertainer Roy Clark has died at age 85 from complications of pneumonia. A talented guitarist and banjo player, he hosted 'Hee-Haw', a show I've never watched, for almost 30 years. I do remember his memorable, haunting hit, 'Yesterday, When I Was Young', which didn't sound like country music at all. Roy recorded it when he was in his mid-30s, although the words and sentiment of the song seemed more appropriate for someone much older. I'm surprised that Frank Sinatra, who has a penchant for such songs of regret, never recorded it. The song was Clark's only Top-40 Hit on the pop charts, although he had numerous country hit recordings.
Dave Burge tweeted, "RIP Roy Clark, whose cornpone comedy unfairly overshadowed his amazing fretboard wizardry."
Look Out! Iceberg Lettuce Ahead: The Titanic Gravy Boat holds 16 fl. oz. of gravy. Now discontinued, it was once available from Archie McPhee for $48.
I hope you bought one and are ready to use it on Thanksgiving Day. As McPhee proclaimed: "There's a stack of mashed potatoes off the port bow. Hard to starboard! Using the Titanic Gravy Boat acknowledges something we all know - most holiday meals are a disaster. The Titanic Gravy Boat brings one of the most famous maritime tragedies of all time to your dinner table. This ceramic representation of the Titanic is 9" x 4-3/4" and holds 16 fl. oz. of gravy which can be poured through the hole in the hull. Also, it can be used to stage a historical reenactment if your relatives start talking politics. As soon as someone starts quoting radio show hosts, you just use mashed potatoes as the iceberg and peas as the life boats."
Question Of The Day: If Democrats don't want foreigners involved in our elections, why do they think it's all right for illegals to vote?
Thursday November 15, 2018
The Golden Age Of Axle Ratios And Other Things: Once upon a time, you could order a vehicle with almost anything you wanted. I recall that a General Motors statistician once calculated there were so many options available that it was theoretically possible that no two 1965 Chevrolets would be exactly alike. That's amazing when you consider that Chevy sold 2,272,900 units in the 1965 model year.
Postwar foreign car manufacturers set the tone of limited options because inventory management was a potential nightmare for these automakers. Volkswagen, the largest imported brand in the U.S. during the 1960s, offered only their Deluxe models for export to the U.S., with upgraded interiors, more chrome trim and export bumpers with overriders and guards. Beetles of that era were offered in about a half-dozen exterior colors. Leatherette interiors came in three colors and which color you received was determined by the exterior color you selected. There were no engine, transmission or axle ratio options. Even a night-dimming mirror was only available as a dealer-installed accessory (for a cost of $4.50 in 1967).
It took the Japanese auto invasion of the 1970s and '80s with their limited choices (Would you like a gray or beige interior?), to wake Detroit up to the fact that they could reduce their cost by limiting options and that few buyers cared anyway.
There was a certain irony to this ... (more >>>)
Playing With Toys Instead Of Fixing Its Car Business: Ford Motor Co. has acquired Spin, the San Francisco-based dockless scooter maker, and will immediately introduce three models in Detroit.
"Ford can now reach any kind of customer, from car buyers to urban e-scooter riders. It's clear to Ford that the scooters have quickly evolved into a viable urban transportation option, and not just a quirky toy." I'm not sure that's clear to anyone else.
Fewer Buicks, Fewer Everything: New car sales in China fell by 12% year-over-year in October, the fourth consecutive month to experience a year-over-year drop in sales. For the first time this year, year-to-date sales in October fell below 2017 sales for the same period. Year-over-year, monthly sales were down 12% in September and 4% in both July and August.
General Motors sales were down 15% y-o-y, while beleaguered Ford experienced a 45% drop. Volkswagen's China sales were down less than 10%. The government "tightened lending requirements and lifted tax breaks this year for new car purchases and so far has shown no willingness to stimulate the market by loosening lending rules or creating new tax breaks."
Rail News: I am pleased to report that my O-gauge train layout is now up and running. All work was completed by Tuesday afternoon. Here's a night photo:
Book Review: 'The Russia Hoax: The Illicit Scheme to Clear Hillary Clinton and Frame Donald Trump' by Gregg Jarrett
The title of this book says it all - the Mueller investigation of President Trump is indeed a hoax. David Catron at the American Spectator wrote, "The primary target isn't really the President. Mueller and his apologists know Trump is the voice of a nationwide rebellion against their authority, and realize that the threat can't be neutralized until he is silenced. The end game is to crush what they see as a peasant's revolt. Mueller's function is to provide a legal pretext for removing the President from office."
He added that ... (more >>>)
Profitable, Predictable Conservatism: The Z Man wrote that, when you look at National Review's tax filings, "it appears their donations shriveled up during the campaign. Their ugly smear campaign against Trump and his voters turns out to have been a costly blunder." May I add gleefully that it serves them right.
The Z Man also noted that NR "lost its moral compass when Rich Lowry took over the operation. It's also the one conservative publication with any influence, at least before it hurled itself onto the NeverTrump bonfire three years ago." I remember that when Lowry came aboard, many writers were suddenly purged from NR's pages and web pixels.
Except Jonah Goldberg. "When you dig through the tax forms of the various not-for profit operations used by Conservative Inc., you find that their stars are living lifestyles that would make the people who read them faint. Jonah Goldberg is a great example. He's gets 200 large from the National Review Institute. He gets a similar figure from American Enterprise. Then he has a cable deal from Fox. He writes books that no one reads, but the not-for-profit system buys these books in bulk. Add it all up and he lives like royalty for doing very little." That doesn't include his speaking gigs and cruise ship deals.
Goldberg makes that kind of dough?! Frankly, I'm astounded. And a bit jealous.
Z Man, again: "Of course, this explains why the so-called conservative opposition is unwilling to oppose or conserve anything. They are afraid to bite the hand that feeds them. To wander off the reservation and possibly anger their pay masters, means leaving a life of extreme luxury for, at best, a middle-class life. It's not as if a Jonah Goldberg could replicate his earnings in the dreaded private sector. The life of a kept man is one of trepidation. They live in fear that the fads will change, they will be deemed heretical and ejected from the hive."
Ol' William F. Buckley must be rolling in his grave.
Question Of The Day is from Tom McMahon: "If you told a little white lie about having an irregular heartbeat, would that be Afib?"
Tuesday November 13, 2018
Wagons Ho: Mac's Motor City Garage reported that Ford is cranking up production of the new, much-larger-than-the-original Ranger "mid-size" pickup truck at its Michigan Assembly Plant just west of Dearborn.
"The Michigan Assembly Plant (MAP for short) is located in Wayne, Michigan, 10 miles down the road from Ford World Headquarters, the mothership in Dearborn, and across the street from a big Ford stamping plant built in 1952. (The two Wayne facilities have since consolidated.) The assembly plant went online in 1957 building Mercury station wagons."
In 1957, Mercury sold 36,012 station wagons, an increase of 16% over 1956. Station wagons represented 13% of Mercury's total 1957 sales.
Music Of Your Life: The new Lincoln Aviator, which will make its debut at the LA Auto Show, will have warning and alert sounds played by members of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
"In total, the musicians created six different alert chimes for 25 different alerts the Aviator could provide. The alert chimes fall into three different categories Lincoln uses for warnings: non-critical, soft-warning chimes and hard-warning chimes. They are all made using a blend of percussion instruments, violin and viola. Lincoln plans to expand the instrumental sounds across its entire lineup eventually. These chimes will represent warnings for things like an open fuel door, unbuckled seat belt, the lowering of the power liftgate and plenty more. It's not a bad day when leaving your headlights on or door open lead to a pleasant musical sound coming from your speakers. All the sounds seem appropriate for their particular functions, and do sound more pleasing than the normal alerts."
Yeah, well if we're going down this road, I'd like to hear 'Ride of the Valkyries' when I floor the accelerator pedal. When I hit the start button ... (more >>>)
Where Did Wylie Coyote Buy His Cars? Answer posted here.
Baby, It's Cold Outside: Nighttime temperatures dipped into the 20s last week. Days were often overcast with fog or rain. Saturday was sunny so, at 1:30 pm with the temperature at 48 degrees, I fired up my ’39 Plymouth coupe and went for a drive. The car had been sitting for over two weeks, so it was thoroughly cold including the vinyl tuck-n-roll seats and the steering wheel. The heater is the original box and fan design and it takes 10-15 minutes to warm up so it's pretty useless for short drives.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed my mini-excursion. Many trees have lost their leaves although a few still had some color. Traffic wasn't too heavy and the car got some needed exercise.
I haven't thought much about the Plymouth lately - I've been busy working on my O-gauge model train layout. Things are coming along pretty well; I've got power to all tracks now, have unpacked and serviced my trains and have test run them all. I'm now doing scenery repair and placing buildings, vehicles and people on the layout.
Where Is Freddy 'Boom Boom' Cannon When You Need Him? Hyundai has named their three-row SUV the Palisade. As in 'Palisades Park' from Freddy's 1962 song of yore about the legendary northern New Jersey amusement park. Located in Fort Lee and Cliffside, Palisades Park opened in 1898 and closed in 1971.
This latest Hyundai will be unveiled at the LA Auto Show.
Car Sighting: Spotted my first Tesla Model 3 last week. It was parked on our street. I don't know if it was a visitor or a neighbor's new car but it looked less distinctive and more generic than the Model S.
Happy Birthday, Grandmom: The only grandmother I ever knew (my other one died a year before I was born) had a birthday yesterday.
She would have been 140 years old, although she always lied about her age and would probably admit to being 115 or so. Born in County Mayo Ireland, Ellen emigrated to the U.S. in October 1904, staying with her sister Kate in New York City. By 1910, she had hooked up with another sister Mary, who lived in Philadelphia. By the time of the 1910 U.S. census, she had already knocked 9 years off her age. By the time of the 1940 census, she gave her age as 50 - a 12-year discrepancy.
In 1915, Ellen married a fellow immigrant from her old village. (Mary had already married his brother.) Ed and Ellen worked hard, opened their own business, prospered, and raised three children.
Grandmom was very good to me and bought me my first car - a new 1963 red Volkswagen Beetle, so I could drive to college rather than take public transit. It cut two hours off my commuting time. Mass transit is not nearly as good as transportation utopians would have you believe.
Having my own car was a good thing. (I used to take a bus, the elevated, a trolley and a train to get to Villanova.) What precipitated the vehicular gift was a family argument over cars. I had saved a couple of hundred bucks and was going to buy a very-much-used $125 Messerschmitt two-seater bubble-car as personal transport. My parents were very opposed - not safe, etc., etc. I said that I was buying the damned thing anyway because I wasn't going to take #@!%* public transport anymore - too time-consuming.
Finally, my kindly grandmother broke in and said, "Stop yelling - I'll buy him a car." (It pays to be the favorite grandchild!) By the way, I was considering a new Austin-Healey Sprite or MG Midget. My parents persuaded me to buy a Volkswagen Beetle instead. Good thing that they did - the Beetle was dead-bang reliable. I'm sure the Sprite would have been a nightmare to own and keep running.
My favorite story about my grandmother involves a Seinfeldian dating situation: As a teenager, I was planning to break-up with a girl I was seeing, when her father suddenly died. As the Still-Designated Boyfriend, I was required - by social norms - to put in an appearance and pay my respects. As I was leaving the house to go to his viewing, my grandmother saw me all dressed up, called me over and said, "Have a good time at the dance," as she slipped $10 into my hand.
Thanks for everything, grandmom. Almost 60 years later, I'm still having a good time at the dance.
I Just Wanted A Menu, Not A Thesaurus: WildFin, a four-location Washington restaurant chain, which just opened a place on the Vancouver waterfront, has the most pretentious #$@&! menu on earth.
Appetizers include Cougar Gold Fondue, featuring Alderwood smoked chicken, Washington apples, toasted croutons, broccolini, cambozola, Cougar Gold and WildFin IPA white cheddar fondue.
Consider its luncheon French Dip: Thin-shaved Snake River Farms Wagyu beef, herb butter, toasted roll, au jus, fries. $15.95 with smoked provolone and caramelized onions, add $1.00 Or have the Seared Ahi Salad: Wild line-caught sesame crusted yellow fin, wasabi ginger dressing, arugula, red onion, spring radish, edamame, daikon sprouts, macadamia nuts, bean sprouts, wontons and cilantro for $18.95. Or you could order Flash-Seared Cajun Fish Tacos with Corn and our tortilla, jalapeño aïoli, avocado tomatillo salsa, crunchy jicama slaw for $15.95.
Extra sides available include Jalapeño Skillet Corn Bread for $5.95 or Rosemary Potato Bread with sweet fig and chive butter for $4.95.
One of the dessert selections is Chocolate Overload Cake, featuring Tillamook vanilla ice cream and Ghirardelli chocolate sauce for $8.50. Or Donuts (the menu doesn't reveal how many - I bet it's only two) served with maple bourbon sauce, fried to order and dusted with cinnamon anise sugar for $8.50.
Can I just have a cheeseburger and fries, please.
It Costs A Lot Of Money To Keep Those Big Teeth Polished: Joe Kennedy, former hot-tempered congressman and son of the late Bobby K., runs a public charity and "in 2016, Kennedy pocketed a total of $824,929 - $109,336 from Citizens Energy and $715,703 from 'related organizations'."
His second wife, Beth, grabbed another $316,573 - $55,222 from Citizens Energy and $261,351 from those "related organizations."
Thought For Today: When you are dead, you don't know that you are dead. It is difficult only for others. It is the same when you are stupid.
Friday November 9, 2018
Trompe L'Oeil Impala: A 1958 Chevrolet Impala, exhibited at SEMA last week, is not what it seems to be. Looking like a bare-metal finish automobile decorated everywhere with etchings, engravings and machine turnings is actually a paint job.
Displayed by ... (more >>>)
Stick To What You Know: That old adage which has saved many owners of profitable manufacturing or wholesaling companies from opening, say, a restaurant and losing their shirts. General Motors must have stepped out to get a drink from the water fountain when that idea was being taught because the company has decided to get into the electric bike business, even through it has little experience with small horsepower motors, even less with building bicycles and almost nothing about distributing such products.
General Motors is developing two e-bikes, "one compact and one folding, ahead of a launch sometime in 2019.” Because the company is out of good ideas, it is "crowdsourcing a name for its bike brand through a challenge that will award $10,000 for the winning name, and $1,000 each for the nine runners-up."
I suspect that the name 'J. C. Higgins' is already taken. I would nominate 'Oldsmobile'; General Motors already owns the trademark. Call one model the Omega, the other the Alpha. That ought to cover it.
Book Review: 'Ultimate Speed: The Fast Life and Extreme Cars of Racing Legend Craig Breedlove' by Samuel Hawley
If you're an Indianapolis 500 enthusiast, there's a nice museum at the Speedway. On some days, you can even arrange to be ferried around the oval. If you like drag cars, there's the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida. If you're a fan of Land Speed Record Cars, you're mostly out of luck. You won't find a dedicated museum in Bonneville, Utah or anywhere else. Various museums have one or two cars but that's about it. The Beaulieu Motoring Museum in Southern England has a couple of the Campbell's Land Speed Record cars.
If you read car magazines in the 1960s, Craig Breedlove is a familiar name. Craig was always interested in cars and motorcycles. Born in 1937, he was part of the postwar LA hot rod scene in the early 1950s. He had a high school education but had good seat-of-the-pants engineering skills and built several hot rods, eventually running one at Bonneville. Hooked on speed, awestruck by Mickey Thompson's four-engined Challenger LSR machine and the various Arfon Brothers vehicles, he decided to design and build his own LSR vehicle, the Spirit of America. The story of his quest for speed ... (more >>>)
It's Good To Be Noticed: PartCatalog, a supplier of car & truck accessories, put this blog in the top five of its '70 Best Auto Blogs To Follow'. Jeff Oxford wrote, "We found The View Through The Windshield to be a great resource on anything related to automobiles." Thanks, Jeff.
Proving The Obvious: A new study has demonstrated a high correlation between the proportion of homosexuals in the Catholic priesthood and the incidence of sexual abuse by the clergy. The study, conducted by Father Paul Sullins, a Catholic University sociologist, found that the percentage of homosexual men in the priesthood has risen ... (more >>>)
It's True: Heaven has a wall, a gate and a strict immigration policy. Hell has open borders. Let that sink in.
Why Most Pencils Are Painted Yellow: A condensed but well-sharpened history of the pencil is posted here.
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "Nothing is called "secondhand" any more, except "secondhand smoke." Why is it not called "pre-owned" smoke?"
Wednesday November 7, 2018
October Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were estimated at a 17.5 million SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate) last month, down 3% from October 2017, and about the same as last month. As is usual these days, SUVs, crossovers and trucks dominated the market.
Ford Motor Co. reported that October sales fell by 4% year over year to 192,616 Ford and Lincoln vehicles. Passenger car sales fell 17% in the month while truck sales dropped 5% and sport utility vehicle sales rose 8%. Ford sold 70,438 F-Series pickups in October, a drop of 7% but still ahead of Ram pickup sales of 49,186 units. Mustang sales dipped by 6% to 4,924 units. Sales of the Lincoln brand fell by 15% year-over-year in October as sales of Lincoln cars dropped by 31.6%. Lincoln-badged car sales totaled 2,195 units in the month; total sales were 7,774 vehicles. Lincoln Navigator sales rose 70% to 1,115 units.
Fiat-Chrysler reported an October sales increase of 16% year-over-year to 177,391 vehicles. The Jeep brand posted an increase of 9% year over year, as sales of the new Cherokee rose 15% to 18,598 units and Compass sales jumped 26% to 14,083 units. Chrysler brand sales went up 21% year over year to 13,289 units but Fiat brand sales tumbled 35% to just 1,151. Dodge brand sales soared 38% to 33,872 units in October. Sales of the Journey rose 24%, and Challenger sales jumped 34%. Caravan sales totaled 11,110 units in the month and are up 20% year-to-date. Alfa Romeo brand sales leaped 44% in October to 1,737 vehicles. The Stelvio SUV accounted for the majority of those sales with 902 vehicles sold.
It is estimated that General Motors sales were down over 4% to 5% year-over-year in October.
Honda claimed that its sales increased by 6% thanks not only to strong sales of its trucks and sport-utility vehicles, as well as its electrified vehicles, which set a record for the second consecutive month. Toyota sales increased 2% to 168,385 vehicles. 20,548 Toyota Highlander SUVs found buyers in October. Volkswagen reported sales of 29,000 units in October, an increase of 4.6% over last October. VW's Atlas SUV found 4,725 buyers last month - up 29% from a year ago. Hyundai sales increased 25% to 64,146 vehicles, while Kia sales rose 2% to 45,102 units. Nissan sales fell 13% to 98,082 vehicles. Subaru sales climbed 3% to 55,394 units, including 15,981 Foresters. This is Subaru's 83rd consecutive year-over-year sales increase, thanks to sales of its new three-row Ascent SUV and a sales increase of the Crosstrek - Subaru's compact crossover offering. Mazda sales declined 10% to 18,683.
In the luxury field, Mercedes-Benz sold 29,474 vehicles in October, a decrease of 18%. BMW sold 23,262 Bimmers, a slight increase year-over-year. 22,716 Lexuses found buyers, a fractional drop from last October. Audi sales dropped 16% to 16,056 units. Acura sold 13,624 vehicles in October, an increase of 7%. Acura's RDX compact crossover saw a y-o-y sales increase of 75% to 6,193 utes. Tesla sales were reported to be 20,325 for October, an increase of 347% from a year ago. Infiniti sold 11,880 units an increase of 15%; 3,160 examples of the redesigned QX50 compact crossover found buyers, a jump of 142%. Land Rover sales leaped 43% to 7,846 SUVs, while Jaguar sales dropped 8% to 2,648 vehicles, mostly SUVs. Genesis, the luxury arm of Hyundai, sold a mere 372 vehicles last month, a steep decline of 79% y-o-y.
Only 95 Smart cars found buyers in October - a drop of 32%. Sales of Rolls-Royce increased 5% to 90 Rollers, while Bentley sales declined 12% to 165 examples. 84 Lamborghinis found homes in October, while 142 McLarens were sold, an increase of 24%.
Smart Death Watch: The original Smart car was a 1980s joint venture between then-trendy watchmaker Swatch and Volkswagen. VW backed out and Mercedes-Benz jumped in. Later Swatch pulled out of the deal. Now, newest partner Renault is having second thoughts and wants out of the joint-venture, meaning that the Smart brand will probably die.
Not that many will care: "Through the end of September, Mercedes-Benz USA recorded 959 Smart Fortwo sales, down 63.6% over the same period last year."
Best Reply Of The Month … so far, goes to Dave Burge. After reading that "the new Whole Foods in Navy Yard features a build-your-own avocado toast station and a pour-your-own wine bar," he tweeted, "It's like Golden Corral, but for assholes."
Umbrella Probably Not Required: Commenting on the lazy media - the one that seems to get everything wrong - Rick Moran wrote, "I contend this started with their going all in to elect an untried, unprepared Barack Obama, and showing absolutely no curiosity about things like his grades or even what courses he took or of course the fact he was a third generation red diaper baby. It continued with the demonizing of the Tea Party which many of us were involved in and knew was not how it was being described. Then there was the summer of recovery … eight times reported unironically in all major newspapers, including those that should know better. Why, yes, I am looking at you WSJ. The spectacular all-in for Hillary and it's more spectacular backfire.
Now? If the media tells me it's raining, I go outside to verify. And I don't take an umbrella.
Part of the tension right now is that we're flying by instruments and the instruments are broken."
Question Of The Day: Why don't sheep shrink when it rains?
Monday November 5, 2018
Gas Mileage Fish Stories: There are many tales about guys exaggerating about the sizes of fish they've caught. I have no experience with this since I'm not a fisherman. However, I have encountered the automotive equivalent of "It was this big!" on numerous occasions. I'm talking about gas mileage, of course.
Last week ... (more >>>)
And You Thought You Were Buying British Craftsmanship, Sucker: Jaguar Land Rover has opened its state-of-the-art $1.59 billion manufacturing facility in Nitra, Slovakia. The investment in Nitra marks the latest step in the company's global expansion strategy following the opening of its Chinese joint venture in 2014 and Brazilian plant in 2016.
What's Good For GM Is Not Good For The Country: General Motors, once a champion of capitalism and foe of government interference, has given up on the free market, waving the white flag of surrender to the Green Lobby. GM now wants the federal government to force electric cars on the market and taxpayers to heavily subsidize them. GM should focus more on improving build quality and reliability rather than pleasing environmentalists (who don't buy new GM vehicles anyway).
In an op-ed, CEO Mary Barra said the federal government should impose a "National Zero Emissions Vehicle" program that will "move our country faster to an all-electric zero emissions future." Such a program would expand California's electric car mandate nationwide. It would require 7% of new cars sold to be electric in 2021 - less than three years from now. GM wants the mandate to increase each year, until it hits 25% by 2030.
As in California, carmakers would get credits for each EV car sold, and could buy and sell them with other automakers. Barra also wants Congress to renew and expand the $7,500 refundable tax credit given to electric car buyers. Taxpayers have already forked over nearly $5 billion to subsidize the (mostly wealthy) electric car buyers. The credit is supposed to phase out once a carmaker sells 200,000 plug ins. But Barra says stopping the taxpayer subsidies "will stifle growth."
"In other words, Barra is flat out admitting that without federal mandates and massive tax subsidies, electric cars don't have much of a future. Environmentalists might love them, but consumers clearly don't. And for good reason. As it stands, plug-ins are expensive and have a limited utility. They serve a niche market. The tiny Chevy Bolt lists at $37,000, and can go only about 238 miles before requiring a 9-hour recharge. In the first nine months of this year, GM sold a total of 11,807 Bolts, which is down from last year. The company sold four times as many gas-guzzling Silverado trucks in one month.
Overall, electric car sales accounted for just 1.5% of total car sales in the first half of this year, despite getting huge federal tax credits and additional credits available in many states."
Meanwhile, Fiat-Chrysler, once thought to be at death's door, is beating expectations as record profits from its gas-sucking Jeep and Ram brands in its North American heartland offset losses racked up in China and Europe selling tiny fuel-sipping cars.
Moving Story: At 12:40 pm last Saturday, we brought the train platform in from the garage. We moved it in under cloudy but dry skies. Everything went OK. No animals were harmed; no humans were killed. A few screws were stripped attaching the two steel rockers. That's OK, I have enough to last me until 2037.
There is much work to be done but I hope to have my O-gauge train layout operational before Thanksgiving.
Bombshell: It's (allegedly) the beginning of the end for Donald Trump ... brought to you by all the hosts at the news networks you never watch (3 minute video).
Irony Alert: Perpetually-angry actor Alec Baldwin, who wrote an article about how we must all be civil to one another after the 2011 Gabby Giffords shooting, was arrested last week after punching someone in the face over a parking space dispute in New York City.
All The Leaves Are Brown ... and the sky is gray:
This was the view from the back deck over the weekend. Winter will soon be upon us.
Book Review: 'The Capitalist Comeback: The Trump Boom and the Left's Plot to Stop It' by Andrew F. Puzder
Andy Puzder is the former CEO of Carl's Jr.'s parent company and grew the firm to 2,700 restaurants globally. He is a knowledgeable businessman and ardent capitalist. In 2016 ... (more >>>)
Anti-Semitic Robot Algorithms: Twitter has apologized for 'Kill all Jews' as a trending topic. "This was trending as a result of coverage and horrified reactions to the vandalism against a synagogue in New York. Regardless, it should not have appeared as a trend."
Over the weekend, police arrested James Polite, a black Democrat activist and former Obama campaign worker, in connection with the anti-Semitic hate graffiti "inside Union Temple in Prospect Heights. He's believed to have also set fires outside schuls & yeshivas in Williamsburg. … Graffiti inside the Union Temple on Eastern Parkway in Prospect Heights read 'Kill all Jews' and 'Hitler', along with some other horribly offensive language."
Regarding the robotic algorithms, Professor John Frink of The Simpsons once said, "Elementary chaos theory tells us that all robots will eventually turn against their masters and run amok in an orgy of blood and the kicking and the biting with the metal teeth and the hurting and shoving."
One More Sign Of End Times: Thomas the Tank Engine will introduce a "homeless" Kenyan train to teach children about refugees.
"A new series of the show will feature the Island of Sodor's first black female character, developed on the advice of the United Nations. In the updated version, Nia, the Kenyan engine, will join other recently introduced international characters including Ashima from India and Shane from Australia. Gender-balanced storylines were developed with the assistance of Tolulope Lewis-Tamoka, the UN Womens Africa Programme Adviser."
Thomas, we hardly knew ye.
Quote Of The Day is from Steve Sailer: "Political correctness is a war on noticing."
Thursday November 1, 2018
Book Review: 'Mustang by Design: Gale Halderman and the Creation of Ford's Iconic Pony Car' by Ames Dinsmore and James Halderman
The Mustang is one of the most significant cars of the second half of the 20th Century. Earlier this year, the 10 millionth example rolled off the assembly line. For all its mistakes, Ford has resisted the temptation to make the Mustang something else. No four-door sedans or station wagons (both discussed in this book), no SUV version, no foreign editions made outside America - nothing to sully the purity of this American sporty coupe.
There have been many books written about the marque, this is the first one to focus on ... (more >>>)
Buh-Bye: The California-based battery-car company Faraday Future is "effectively insolvent," according to co-founder Nick Sampson who has resigned. Unless a new source of funding is found quickly - quite unlikely - the company is out of business.
Marketing Bubble: Invented in 1936, Plexiglas acrylic was a new product with few uses before World War II. It found numerous applications during the war, especially in military aircraft. It was tough, didn't shatter like glass, had near-perfect optics and didn't degrade in sunlight. Plexiglas was used during World War II in bomber noses, canopies, and gun turrets. Throughout the U.S., numerous companies fabricated acrylic components for wartime use. In four short years, America's movers and shakers transformed America's military hardware from almost nonexistent into a global powerhouse and laid the foundation for a mighty postwar industrial America which became an economic superpower. But, the conversion to peacetime uses was a challenge for acrylic raw material manufactures and fabricators alike.
Many new markets for acrylic were found, including outdoor internally-illuminated signs, automobile tail light lenses and parking light lenses, street lights and the like. But not every new idea was a success.
The Fabri-Form Company of Bayseville Ohio was founded in 1943 and was a pioneer in ... (more >>>)
Holy Cow! The Simpsons producer Adi Shankar confirmed that Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, the Kwik-E-Mart convenience store owner, is being dropped from the show due to complaints that the character promotes racist stereotypes of people of Indian and Asian descent.
Shankar sees the decision as a mistake, saying: "If you are a show about cultural commentary and you are too afraid to comment on the culture, especially when it's a component of the culture you had a hand in creating, then you are a show about cowardice." Indeed.
Too many people are humorless scolds these days, spending their hours searching for anything that offends their sensibilities.
Oh, well. I'll always treasure this exchange with Apu and his wife during a drive in their minivan ... (more >>>)
How Can You Believe Political Polls? One polling organization (N.Y. Times/Siena) had to telephone 38,000 people to get 737 responses. What about the opinions of the other 37,263 people?
Pray For The Dead: Tomorrow is All Souls' Day, also known as the Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed. On November 2nd, we pray for the repose of the souls of the dead, in the hope that when we're dead, someone will return the favor and pray for us as well. We can all use prayer - living or dead. So, be sure to pray for the dead; your prayers and intercessions many somehow come back to help you when you're in need - sort of a prayerful Pay It Forward.
I've posted more information about All Souls' Day here.
Quote OF The Day is from James Lileks: "This really is the future I wanted. Although I expected longer battery life."
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