A Blog About Cars ... And More
Tuesday July 30, 2019
AutoSketch: 1957 Plymouth - 'Suddenly It's 1960!'
Plymouth's ad campaign for 1957 claimed that the restyled Plymouth was three years ahead of its time. It certainly looked the part - the entire Chrysler lineup looked like nothing else on the road with swoopy lines and soaring tailfins.
When General Motors found out about Virgil Exner's new 1957 designs, the styling department almost soiled its corporate trousers. Suddenly, The General realized that Harley Earl's age of high 'power dome' hoods and chrome applied by the bucketful with a trowel was over. It was too late to do anything about the 1958 models (the '58 Buicks and Oldsmobiles are case studies in high hoods and excess brightwork), but a crash program was initiated to make GM's 1959 models as wild as Chrysler's. Earl was retired in 1958.
Plymouth referred to the new look as ... (more >>>)
May I Borrow A Cup Of Sugar … And A Vehicle Platform? Ford, which is losing money on its European operations, has reached an agreement with Volkswagen to use VW's advanced MEB platform architecture for electric vehicles. Ford plans to sell 600,000 electric vehicles in Europe based on Volkswagen's MEB platform.
Ford and VW also confirmed "that plans are still on track for building commercial vehicles and trucks for select global markets. Those markets include Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia Pacific and South America. The first vehicle of this joint project could be on the road as early as 2022."
As product development costs soar, especially due to changing markets, new technology and more government regulations, expect more automakers to form such alliances.
Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Cane: Edd Byrnes, the actor who played Gerald Lloyd 'Kookie' Kookson III on '77 Sunset Strip', turned 86 today. I posted a photo of Kookie's hot rod here.
Coincidence? Or What!? Peter Paul Reubens painted great, fleshy mounds. Peter Paul Mounds tastes great after a Reuben sandwich. (permalink)
Raising The Debt Ceiling: It should be noted that both Republicans and Democrats don’t give a rat's patootie about the National Debt, which has now surpassed $22.5 trillion. But politicians seem to have no problem raising the debt ceiling once again, without reining in spending. Political wrangling has trumped common sense.
While Paul Ryan never accomplished much during his congressional tenure, in 2011 he proposed a sensible 'Path To Prosperity' debt-reduction program. Ryan's old plan should be dusted off and implemented now. Every journey begins with a single step.
Cancer Update: Last week, I visited the Oncology Center for the usual blood test, which measures cancer markers - carcinoembryonic antigen. My blood CEA is 1.4, which remains well within normal range (0-5.0 µg/L according to my oncologist). Good news. I also had a chest-to-pelvis CT scan, which showed no activity or change. Good news.
My next blood test is scheduled for early November. (permalink)
Book Review: 'Grateful American: A Journey from Self to Service' by Gary Sinise
Let it be said that Gary Sinise is a great American. He has worked tirelessly on behalf of those who serve this country, entertaining more than a half million troops around the world. He has been advocating for America's military and its veterans for over 40 years. Mr. Sinise is also ... (more >>>)
Thought For Today: I read that 4,153,237 people got married last year. Not to cause any trouble, but shouldn't that be an even number?
Friday July 26, 2019
Micro-Failure: Hemmings has posted photos from the 1958 Imported Car Show in Los Angeles.
The pix are in black and white but the cars were memorably cool and I especially enjoyed seeing pinup Melody Ward's long, lovely legs in the Zündapp Janus. More revealing NSFW photos of Melody can be found here. And here. Fellow model Sherli Hill occupied the front seat.
The Janus never caught on in America or anywhere else. Only 114 inches long, riding on a 72 inch wheelbase, the little 937-pound car was powered by a mid-mounted 2-stroke one-cylinder, 14 horsepower engine running through a four-speed tranny. The Zündapp microcar had a top speed of only 50 mph - if you were brave.
Production began in June 1957 at the Nürnberg, Germany plant, but after selling less than 7,000 little vehicles in a year, Zündapp ... (more >>>)
Different Gestures: Well-known California car collector Bruce Meyer has an eclectic group of machines, ranging from historic hot rods to vintage Ferraris. He said, "When I drive one of the hot rods, I get a lot of thumbs-ups; when I drive one of the Ferraris, I get a lot of other fingers."
Luxury Loyalty: J.D. Powers reported, "The luxury car brand that buyers were least likely to come back to was Jaguar. The brand loyalty rate for Jaguar was 20.6%. Customer loyalty numbers were derived from the percentage of vehicle owners who choose the same brand when they trade or purchase their next vehicle. The luxury brand with the highest loyalty rate was Lexus, the Toyota division, at 47.6%."
I really liked my Jaguar but, when I decided to replace it with a newer vehicle, I wouldn't consider another Jaguar. My old one was relatively trouble-free but I didn't care for the looks of the current offerings and I had a falling out with the only dealership (Monte Shelton, Portland, OR) within 150 miles. (I was having my old Jag serviced by an independent sop which did great work.) I ended up choosing a Lexus. And 12+ years later, I have no regrets. Although my heart goes pitter-patter whenever I see an old Jag on the road.
"It's Summertime, Summertime, Sum-sum-summertime ..." The Jamies' 1958 musical earwig can get inside your head, displacing more and more rational thought until you become a drooling moron. That's why I don't have the song in my iTunes library.
The tune has been used in commercials for Buick, Ken-L Ration Burger Time Dog Food and Applebee's. I have seen Buicks driven by elderly, drooling morons and I have observed them pulling into the parking lots of many an abominable Applebee's. So there. (Well ... that's better than staying home and eating Ken-L Ration Burger Time Dog Food, I guess.)
In any case, Thursday was definitely summertime. The weather was summery - 68 degrees and blazingly sunny with slightly-hazy azure skies at 9:30 am. (By afternoon, the temperature reached 90.)
It was definitely time to take a drive in my '39 Plymouth business coupe. And I did. I drove with windows down and with '50s rock-n-roll playing through the speakers. But not 'It's Summertime'. I saw Mt. St. Helens which has lost almost all of its snow - just small streaks of gray-white in the crevasses. Otherwise, it’s brownish-gray dirt these days.
Traffic was pretty light and I had an enjoyable drive.
Little Zapper: BMW's first electric Mini will hit the streets by the end of 2019, with priced starting at $36,400. Reportedly battery range is only 114 miles - a deal-killer for most U.S. prospective buyers.
At The Shore - 2019 Edition: My brother recently returned from a Wildwood Crest, NJ vacation. Knowing that my wife and I enjoy all things Jersey shore-related, he sent us several pulp giveaway shoppers' guides to the New Jersey shore. I've written about them before: My 2018 report is posted here. I reported on the 2017 editions here. My 2016 report is posted here. The 2015 report is here; the 2014 survey can be found here.
The ads were pretty tame - and there were fewer of them this year - but there was exciting news to report: Morey's Piers, celebrating fifty years on the boardwalk of Wildwood, NJ, debuted a new ride in July. Located on Morey's Surfside Pier is the family-friendly Runaway Tram.
The $4 million Zierer German-built roller-coaster climbs 40 feet before coasting, twisting and turning riders along 922 feet of track. The Force 280 coaster - fabricated by JRA Attraction Design Company of Cincinnati, Ohio - features one train with 10 two-person passenger cars. The tram is styled like the well-known Wildwood Sightseer Tramcar, which has cruised up and down the Wildwood boardwalk for 70 years.
Several ads in Jersey Cape Magazine - a free pulp giveaway, caught my eye ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'TR's Last War: Theodore Roosevelt, the Great War, and a Journey of Triumph and Tragedy' by David Pietrusza
Anything author Pietrusza writes about political history goes on my must-read list. I have previously written favorable reviews about '1932 - The Rise of FDR & Hitler - Two Tales of Politics, Betrayal, and Unlikely Destiny', '1920: The Year of the Six Presidents', '1948: Harry Truman's Improbable Victory and the Year that Transformed America' and '1960 - LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon: The Epic Campaign That Forged Three Presidencies'.
This most recent book is ... (more >>>)
A Quote From The Wayback Machine: "Every day, illegal aliens show up in court who are charged. Some are guilty and surely some are innocent. Some go to jail and some don't. But they're all illegal aliens. And whether they're innocent or guilty of the crimes they were charged with in court, they're still here illegally, and they should be sent out of the country." - President Bill Clinton, 1995.
Gun Problem … Or Race Problem? John Q. Publius (via The Woodpile Report) noted, "The firearm homicide rate for Hispanics in the United States is 6.4 per 100,000, or nearly four times that of white Americans. The firearm homicide rate for blacks in the US is 19.8 per 100,000, or eleven-and-a-half times that of whites."
The firearm homicide rate for white Americans is 1.7 per 100,000, which is identical to the Czech Republic and lower than countries like Canada, France, and Austria.
Quote Of The Day is from Steven Wright: "82.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot."
Wednesday July 24, 2019
Why Did They Expect A Different Outcome? Car and Driver tested a $79,595 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio for 40,0000 miles and found it very unreliable. "Rarely have we hoped for a car in our possession to succeed more than we did for this Alfa. And rarely have we been more consistently disappointed." Well, there's Italian "craftsmanship" for one thing. And, stories about Alfa electronics make those old Lucas tales pale by comparison.
"Our honeymoon lasted 2,400 miles. Then the Giulia failed us for the first time. We still hadn't taken it to the track to perform our initial battery of tests when, on a 650-mile road trip, our Giulia lit its "service electronic throttle control" warning as well as a check-engine light. The car was still operational, but its mode selector became inoperative, locking the car in its standard suspension and powertrain settings. Once it was back near our Michigan headquarters, we took it to the dealer, who could find no cause for the warnings, which were no longer lit by then anyway. While crawling around the car for a solid week, though, the dealership tech found a small coolant leak. Tightening a loose hose clamp stemmed the flow. This incident is what's known as foreshadowing."
The "service electronic throttle control" warning came back at 4,100 miles. "Back to the dealership we went. This time, the dealer replaced the fuel pump under warranty. For the remaining 12 months of the test, we settled into a routine with the Giulia: periods of praying in vain for the problems to cease interspersed with flashes of pure driving joy. We were elated when we could finish a long drive without scheduling a dealer visit. That's a sad state of affairs."
Things got worse: "When we took the car in for its 10,000-mile service, we lost use of it for 31 days.” “The 30,000-mile service included new spark plugs at $49 apiece - more if you include the cost of screwing them in."
Sum-up: "During its 14 months with us, the Giulia spent 80 days out of commission. That's unforgivable. We went from recommending that people buy Giulia QFs to recommending that they lease Giulia QFs to recommending that they stay away from Giulia QFs altogether.
You broke our heart, Giulia. You broke our heart."
Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days Of Summer: Stealing a line from the 1963 Nat King Cole hit song, it was certainly a little hazy. At 10:00 am , the temperature was already 70 degrees (afternoon high was 82); skies were bright summer blue and mostly cloud-free with a little haze near the horizons. I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and ran some errands.
First stop was old town Battle Ground for gas - unleaded Premium - was $3.639/gallon. Once the tank was full, I headed to the library to return some books. Then I took off for an excursion along the back roads of Clark County. I usually drive at or below the speed limit but I ended up passing slowpokes on two occasions. Otherwise, it was a very pleasant outing.
Popularity Contest: Dealers again ranked Lexus as the most-liked auto brand, according to the winter 2019 National Automobile Dealers Association Dealer Attitude Survey. Lexus also claimed the top spot in NADA's summer 2018 survey.
Toyota, Subaru, Honda and Porsche rounded out the top five in the latest poll, unchanged from the summer 2018 survey.
Happy Birthday ... to my wife.
She'll be the same age as me for 12 days or so.
It's A Free Country: Recently, Arthur Chrenkoff wrote, "You know that you are not imprisoned and kept by force where you are, don't you? If you really so passionately dislike just about everything about your country, you have to ask yourself a question why suffer? Why keep putting yourself through this endless unhealthy rage and frustration? There are many different types of societies around the world, some of which are without doubt a lot closer to your vision of what an ideal community should be like. Wouldn't you be happier living somewhere else? It just doesn't make sense to me that you would want to live in a place you don't like when you have options to live in places you would."
By the way, Arthur is "a migrant (from Poland to Australia to the U.S.) who happens to be very happy in his new home and very grateful to the nation that adopted me." He observed, "In just about every Western society I am aware of there is a sizable minority of probably between 10 and 20% of the population who appear to be deeply and profoundly unhappy about the shape and the direction of their own country. This sentiment ranges from a sheer hatred and loathing of the society, which is deemed irredeemably unjust, oppressive, racist, and any number of other characteristics usually ending in -ist or -phobic, and it only deserves to survive if radically transformed, all the way to a milder disappointment and despondency that the society (and the general population) constantly fail to live up to one's standards of what is good and desirable."
If you hate America - its language, its customs, its culture, its people and its laws - you're free to leave. Those of us whom you've offended will probably line up and wave a heartfelt "Buh-bye!"
Quote Of The Day is from Groucho Marx: "When you're in jail, a good friend will be trying to bail you out. A best friend will be in the cell next to you saying, 'Damn, that was fun'."
Monday July 22, 2019
Summer In Vermont: In a 1941 photo, a girl waits patiently in the passenger seat of a 1939 Plymouth P8 DeLuxe convertible parked in the business district of ... (more >>>)
The Most American: Cars.com has developed an American-Made Index, a study that looks at various factors to determine just how homegrown a given car might be.
For 2019, the most American cars are Jeep Cherokee, Honda Odyessy, Honda Ridgeline, Honda Passport, Chevrolet Corvette, Acura MDX, Honda Pilot, Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Acura RDX, Chevrolet Camaro, Toyota Avalon, Ford F-150, Honda Accord and Toyota Tundra.
America's Dream Car Has Arrived: The new mid-engined 2020 Corvette C8 Stingray was finally unveiled last week. It offers 495 horsepower, a 0-60 time of less than 3 seconds and a starting price under $60,000.
"The 2020 Chevy Corvette gets a 6.2-liter LT2 naturally aspirated V8 engine that makes 495 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque with the optional exhaust. Without the sport exhaust it makes 490 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque. All C8s will have a dry-sump oil system, and the internals remain largely the same as the LT1. Redline stays at 6,600 rpm for this engine, too. The motor is visible through a 3.2-millimeter glass pane, and it's a real gem to look at. An eight-speed dual-clutch Tremec transmission will be swapping the cogs, and there is no manual option."
To keep the costs down, Chevy didn't use a supercar-like carbon fiber tub. Everything is made of aluminum, except for two carbon pieces for the rear bumper beam and an underbody panel running along the bottom of the center tunnel. It weighs 3,366 pounds dry. The C8 will go into production at the Bowling Green, KY plant in late 2019.
Have Fun While You Can: At 10:30 am Friday, it was partly cloudy and 66 degrees, so I decided to go for a drive in my '39 Plymouth coupe. By partly cloudy, I mean that it was sunny enough to be sunglasses weather but amidst the light blue summer sky there were puffy clouds strewn about overhead. On the other hand, the northern and eastern horizons, were socked in by heavy cloud cover. Is there still snow on Mt. St. Helens? I have no idea; it was not visible.
This was the first day in a while when I wasn't subject to overcast skies and/or rain, so I wanted to get a fun old car drive under my belt while the sun was out and the pavement was dry.
Traffic was light, everything is summer green, yellow dandelions were abundant in farm fields and my drive along the back roads was quite pleasant. The Plymouth ran great and it was calming to hear the exhaust burble through open windows as I drove along.
Book Review: 'Never Stop Driving: A Better Life Behind the Wheel' by Larry Webster, Zach Bowman, Jack Baruth and Brett Berk
'Never Stop Driving' celebrates many segments of the car hobby told in personal terms: falling in love with a car (or cars), the search for the right vehicle, the joy or frustration of car repair, the personalities of fellow car enthusiasts, the fun of driving, the pleasure of discovering a fun escape road, the skill and excitement of racing, the restoration experience and much more. Each author is an expert in one or more facets of automobiles and each contributes a unique and compelling viewpoint.
This hardcover, 192-page book is full of gorgeous color photographs as well. Many are ... (more >>>)
I Remember When A Drag Queen … was a girl with a hot car who liked to race: 'Creating Queer-Inclusive Elementary School Library', 'Developing an Online Face for a Lesbian Pulp Fiction Collection', and 'Drag Queen Storytimes in Libraries'. All are subjects at this year's largest public librarians conference.
Virtue-Signaling Liberal Dilemma Of The Day: An illegal Immigrant has been found using a banned plastic straw in a sanctuary city.
Sounds About Right: The Babylon Bee reported that the "average American now complains more in a week than people living through the Black Plague did their entire lives." Of course, they didn't live as long and screamed a lot more as blood shot out of every orifice. Not to mention the boils and gangrene.
"There's just so much more going wrong now," said Karen Maxwell, a college student. "Things were just much simpler during the Black Death. All they had to deal with was squalor, starvation, and the constant threat of disease. Nowadays we have microaggressions, student debt, gluten, unequal pay for women, GMOs, problematic things like Scarlett Johansson playing a transgender man. The list just goes on and on. So it's no wonder we complain more."
In the present day, though, there are thousands of things people complain about daily - poor cell service, no wi-fi, traffic jams, unripe avocados, obesity, favorite TV shows being canceled - problems no one six hundred years ago had to deal with at all.
True Dat: John Hinderaker wrote, "Starbucks stopped being a chain of coffee shops and turned into a network of public urinals and flop houses with a coffee bar attached."
You may want to short the stock.
Quote Of The Day is from Margaret Thatcher: "No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he’d only had good intentions; he had money as well."
Thursday July 18, 2019
Good Question: Word Girl of AutoExtremist tested a 2019 Cadillac XT4 AWD Premium Luxury, which, she wrote, "Confused me right from the start - I mean, shouldn't every single Cadillac be "Premium Luxury"? Isn't that what the brand is all about?“ It turns out, "Premium Luxury" is a trim level that slots between "Luxury" and "Sport."
The $48,685 Cadillac XT4 "isn't bad, but it isn't great. The engine is noisy, the ride a bit rough, and certainly nothing about it seems premium or luxury. Same goes for the interior. The criticism list about GM interiors is longer than a CVS receipt, and it extends throughout all brands and price points.
How can it be so hard to get a "premium luxury" feel in the XT4? Or forget about premium and just give me some luxury. (I did like the detailing on the door panels - that was actually an unexpected and somewhat premium touch, but when the bar is so low, any little detail stands out.) So, my take is that the XT4 is a just-barely-okay compact luxury crossover (nice category name - not), and if you gotta have a Cadillac, go for it, but I suspect there's more luxury to be had out there somewhere else."
A Simple Technical Explanation … from Dave Burge: "I have to say that "torque is the fat strong kid, horsepower is the fast skinny kid" is my finest moment as a teacher."
Making Fun Of Almost Every Automotive Icon: Especially Porsche. Watch Chris Labrooy's short (1:37 minutes) video. It can't be real ... but it doesn't look like animation.
Automotive Brand Loyalty: The brand loyalty rate for Smart was 14.3%. Are you surprised? On the other end of the spectrum, the brand with the highest loyalty rate was Subaru at 61.5%.
21st Century Mistakes: The cause of Boeing's 737 Max crisis may be that "the iconic American planemaker and its subcontractors have relied on temporary workers making as little as $9 an hour to develop and test software, often from countries lacking a deep background in aerospace - notably India."
"The Max software - plagued by issues that could keep the planes grounded months longer after U.S. regulators this week revealed a new flaw - was developed at a time Boeing was laying off experienced engineers and pressing suppliers to cut costs." This is known as the Lowest Bidder Syndrome.
Fifty Years Ago: July 1969 is a memorable month. Neil Armstrong landed on the moon; Ted Kennedy landed in the water.
Here's a little-known fact: Teddy Kennedy's Presidential Medal of Freedom had a special D-ring pull. Yank on it and the neck ribbon rapidly inflated to become a flotation device. OK, here's a Teddy joke:
Dave Burge added, "On this 50th anniversary of the Moon landing, let us resolve to reignite the spirit of those pioneering astronauts by driving a Corvette to a piano bar and winking at cocktail waitresses." Yes, the Apollo 11 crew all drove Corvettes, as did most of the early astronauts. Many kept Tang in the glove compartment.
Book Review: 'Breaking And Entering: The Extraordinary Story of a Hacker Called Alien' by Jeremy N. Smith
This may be one of my shortest book reviews. The only extraordinary thing about this book is ... (more >>>)
When You Get Older, This Happens: The Earth's core has been leaking for billions of years.
The Party Of Hate: Kurt Schlichter wrote, "Joe (Biden) was the Democrat's final chance to run a major candidate who likes America and likes Americans. Now one of the two major American political parties is all-in on hating the USA and hating you."
He added, "The current Democrat Party consists of hipster geebos, race hustlers, pierced campus mutants, bitter middle-aged divorcées who teach high school, tech twerps and uninvited foreigners who shouldn't even be here. The libs will be shocked to learn that real Americans love America … they are continuing to battle over the relatively tiny America-hating slice of the electorate while Trump is gathering up the patriots."
Quote Of The Day is from Honoré de Balzac: "Bureaucracy is a giant mechanism operated by pygmies."
Tuesday July 16, 2019
Auto Age: The average age of cars and trucks in the U.S. has hit a record 11.8 years, as better quality and technology allows people to keep them on the road longer.
The 2019 figures from data provider IHS Markit show that the rate of increase is slowing, but the average age is still expected to go over 12 years early in the next decade. The average age is up 0.1 years from 2018. So the average car on the road is from model year 2007 or 2008. Western states have the oldest vehicles at 12.4 years, while in the Northeast the average age is only 10.9 years.
Our daily drivers are a 2008 model and a 2005 model.
What Happened To Summer? July in Western Washington is generally sunny, fairly hot and dry. This year, it has been rainy, surprisingly humid and overcast - quite unusual. On Saturday, the sun was out - although there were lots of clouds - at 9:30 am, so I fired up my '39 Plymouth business coupe and went for a drive. The temperature was 69 degrees and the humidity was 64%.
The roads were practically empty. I saw a few people cutting their grass and there was a general smell of rashly-mowed lawns in the air. I drove with the windows down and listened to the Glasspacks mingle with 1957 music coming from the speakers.
By the time I got home the clouds were moving in and the sun disappeared shortly thereafter. The rain returned Monday and it's supposed to rain on and off most of this week.
Why Can't They Just Attach Playing Cards To The Wheels With Clothes Pins? New European Union regulations will require every electric car to be fitted with a noise-making device to alert pedestrians and bicyclists.
China Woes: Ford and General Motors failed to make a profit in China during the second quarter.
GM's sales in China fell by 12% for the quarter ended on June 30th, while sales of Ford Motor Co. in China had tumbled by 22% during the same period. That's not so good, but it is much better than the 36% year-over-year drop Ford reported for its first-quarter sales in China.
Motel Memories: Every week, James Lileks posts some old motel postcards - most from the 1950s and ’60s. I'm particularly taken with them because they bring back memories.
In the late 1960s, I began traveling on business . 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 top rack rate), I'd ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'The Hell Of Good Intentions: America's Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of U.S. Primacy' by Stephen M. Walt
Anyone remember the 1972 Life cereal commercial, featuring Mikey, who "hates everything"? I think Mikey grew up to become Stephen Walt because he hates everything, too. Wait begins by reviewing diplomatic mistakes of the past, particularly those of the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations. The author discusses The Blob, the diplomatic and foreign affairs division of The Swamp, and how various think tanks and foundations play a large role in American foreign policy.
He blames the United States' foreign policy disasters of the last 30 years on ... (more >>>)
'Just A Start' … is the title of an inspiring 1:38 minute video about President Trump. It's worth a look.
Quote Of The Day is from Jonathan Winters: "If God had intended us to fly, He would have made it easier to get to the airport."
Friday July 12, 2019
Finned Beauties: Finned mermaid spokesmodel (and comely Las Vegas showgirl) Alyce Keller poses by a finned 1959 Dodge Custom Royal Lancer hardtop coupe at the 1959 Chicago Auto Show. Note the sign in the background ... (more >>>)
Illustrated Definition of 'Stuck': I don't think this off-roader is going anywhere soon.
Maybe Andrew Lloyd Webber Will Develop A Musical About It: Lotus has named their new Type 130 electric supoercar 'Evija'.
The Evija will be the first car Lotus has produced under the ownership of Chinese umbrella company Geely. Evija means "the first in existence" or "the living one," according to Lotus, though the company did not go into the origins of the word. The Evija is priced at $2 million.
RIP: Condolences to James Lileks on the death of his dad, who lived a very full and active life. Ralph J. Lileks passed away unexpectedly at age 93.
James tweeted, "When he died, his Harley in the garage was still warm from his last ride."
Don't Forget: Today is National Collector Car Day. If you see someone driving an old car, wave to them or give them a thumbs up.
Neither Happy, Nor Gay, Nor Popular: A recent survey shows that young people don't care for the gay/trannie community as much as they used to. "The survey, produced by the Harris Poll in partnership with Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), found that Americans aged 18 to 34 who say they are comfortable interacting with queer people fell from 53% in 2017 to 45% in 2018 - even among those whom the report considers “allies” to the LGBTQ community."
Christopher Johnson observed, "It just might have something to do with the fact that most people don't enjoy having their faces regularly shoved into an ideology." And getting sick and tired of seeing rainbow flags every-freakin-where. Live your life but get outta my face.
Headline of the Week ... is from The Babylon Bee: 'Christians Call For Boycott Of Fruity Pebbles For Blatant Support Of Pride Month'.
A Pro-Trump Statement ... from rocker Ted Nugget: "I'm a celebrator of all things good while I fight and try to destroy all things bad and ugly. I'll be 71 glowing, youthful years old this year - 71! Count them. And in my 71 years - I suspect I was paying attention by 1949 - this is the best president I have ever seen. This is a hell-raisin', we the people, Constitution, Bill Of Rights, be the best that you can be."
Quote Of The Day is from sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
Wednesday July 10, 2019
Six-Month Vehicle Sales Report: The seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales (SAAR) appears to be right around 17 million light vehicles (cars, sport utility vehicles and pickups). Compared to the first six months of last year, new vehicle sales were down 2.3%.
1,170,962 Ford-branded vehicles found buyers in the first six months of this year, a decline of 5%. Toyota sold 1,016,373 units during the last six months - a drop of 5%. Chevrolet sold 938,626 vehicles year-to-date, falling 6% from the same period in 2018. Ford sold 448,398 F-Series full-size pickup trucks, down fractionally from the same period in 2018. The F-Series, made up primarily of the F-150, has been the top-selling vehicle in America for over four decades.
Overall, General Motors sold 1,398,879 during the first half of the year - a 4% decline. Honda sold 703,428 units so far this year, a drop of 2%. Nissan was close behind, selling 653,978 units - an 8% drop. Buick sold 107,687 vehicles (41,610 were Encore small crossovers), down 2% overall. Chevrolet sold 938,626 units, a drop of 6%. GMC sales increased 3% to 277,280 trucks.
Fiat-Chrysler didn't do so well, selling 1,096,110 machines - a drop of 2%. Six-month sales of Chrysler declined 27%, Dodge was down 9%. Jeep sales declined 8% in the first six months to 456,281 vehicles. Fiat was the biggest loser in the first half of the year, selling only 5,103 units - an off-the-cliff descent of 38% compared with the same period last year. Six-month sales of Alfa-Romeo were 9,037 a drop of 26% from last year. The only bright spot was Ram, which sold 333,168 trucks during the first six months, an increase of 28% - outselling the once-mighty Chevrolet Silverado by more than 40,000.
Hyundai Kia Auto Group sold a total of 648,180 vehicles during the first-six months of 2019, an increase of 3%. Subaru sold 339,525 units during the same period - an increase of 5%.Volvo sold 50,120 vehicles in six months - a 5% increase over last year.
In the luxury field, Mercedes-Benz sold 159,130 vehicles YTD, a decline of 8%. BMW sold 156,439 units so far this year - a 2% increase over last year. Lexus sold 135,735 units so far this year - a drop of less than 1%. The flagship LS fell 9% to 1,987 sedans. 101,440 Audis found homes in 2019 so far, a drop of 6%. Tesla sold 83,900 vehicles in the U.S. during the first six months of 2019 - a surge of 62%. (Worldwide sales for Tesla were claimed to be 95,200 vehicles in 2nd quarter; 74,350 were Model 3s.) Cadillac sold 75,735 vehicles in 2019, a fractional increase over last year. Acura sold 73,757 units so far in 2019, a 2% increase. 63,056 Infinities found buyers so far this year, slipping 3% from last year. Lincoln sold 50,815 vehicles YTD, an increase of 1% over the same period last year. Genesis sold 10,008, a jump of 38% over the first six months of 2018. Jaguar YTD sales were 16,282, a 12% increase.
Smart sold 475 cars so far this year, a decline of 27% from a year ago.
Not For Me: America is a great country because we have many freedoms including the freedom to spend our money any way we want. That's why Chevrolet is preparing to offer a $100,000 pickup truck with the bowtie badge up front. In 2020, GM is expected offer a Chevrolet Silverado HD with the High Country trim package. While the company has not specified actually pricing, it figures that a top-of-the-line luxury pickup will ring in with a price of $100,000 when fully loaded.
J.D. Power reports that "the industry average price for a pickup in the first five months of 2019 was $45,260. At that price, Ford, GM and Fiat-Chrysler make a gross profit of about $10,000 on every pickup they sell."
"In some ways, it's surprising that it has taken this long for pickups to catch up with sport utility vehicles. We're not talking here about the premium brands like Rolls-Royce, Bentley or Lamborghini that sell SUVs costing more than $200,000. A fully loaded BMW X5 M compact SUV costs more than $120,000, and a Mercedes-Benz G550 goes for more than $140,000."
While I love cars and will overspend to buy something fast, sleek and/or sumptuous, I consider pickups as utilitarian vehicles. I've driven them for work and rented them for hauling stuff but am happy to have a basic stripper model with radio and heater.
Plastics And More: In late June, the United Auto Workers and the French supplier Faurecia have reached a tentative agreement that ended a brief walkout at a critical parts plant in Saline, Michigan. This was once Ford Motor Company's Saline Plant, which was the company's first large-scale in-house injection molding operation. Opening in the late 1950s, it produced many different plastic items, including acrylic taillight lenses. Ford sold the plant a decade ago. Faurecia is 46% owned by automaker PSA Group.
These days, "Faurecia also supplies parts for General Motors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Tesla. The Saline plant makes parts, instrument panels and other components." I visited the plant in the early 1970s. It was large, impressive, well-lit and quite clean at the time.
Book Review: 'The Automobile And American Life, 2d ed.' by John Heitmann
This 7x10 paperback (238 pages, plus notes, bibliography and index) relates the story of how automobiles fundamentally transformed the way people lived shopped, worshipped, socialized as well as the country's infrastructure. The book contains 47 b&w photos.
Heitmann has filled the book with interesting statistics; here are three that caught my eye ... (more >>>)
Unique, Quirky Guy: Ross Perot, presidential candidate in 1992 and '96 has died of leukemia at age 89.
A former IBM sales rep, he founded Electronic Data Systems in 1962. EDS became a big success, Perot became a self-made billionaire and a brilliant if eccentric businessman. EDS was purchased by General Motors in 1984. As a board member, Ross Perot became a thorn in GM's side criticizing CEO Roger Smith's inept management and the quality problems with GM's cars.
During his presidential run, Ross was a fierce opponent of NAFTA claiming that the "giant sucking sound" was the flush of good American jobs out of the U.S. and down into Mexico. It turned out he was right. RIP.
What's In A Name? Schools named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee are picking new Lee's to be named after to avoid costly signage changes. Dave Burge suggested Bruce Lee, Christopher Lee, Spike Lee, Lee Marvin, Lee J. Cobb or Brenda Lee … 'I'm Sorry'. Then there's my suggestion: Lee Liberace.
Genuine U.S. Citizens Are Important: William F. Katz reminds us that "Congressional districts are allocated by citizen population based upon the 10-year census. That's why Democrats and the media are now so opposed to having a citizen question included in the census."
The census should ask about citizenship to keep House representation of citizens fair (and accurate).
Quip Of The Day: Those who get too big for their pants will be totally exposed in the end.
Monday July 8, 2019
Blowing Smoke: Daimler, maker of Mercedes-Benz vehicles, issued a profit warning, telling investors that an increase to its cash provision related to various sins related to the company's diesel vehicles likely will reduce the company's earnings forecast.
The German transportation ministry ordered Daimler to recall 60,000 diesel-powered cars in Germany that officials say were equipped with software designed to defeat emissions testing.
The Daimler recall includes the company's GLK 220 compact luxury sport utility vehicle produced between 2012 and 2015, adding to Daimler's total of some 3 million diesel-powered vehicles that already had been recalled to replace the defective software. Daimler is increasing its provision for tinkering with the emissions systems in its car by "a high three digit million amount." Ouch.
Summer In The City: A 1967 photo taken near Cottman and Castor Avenues in Northeast Philadelphia shows a water ice vendor in his ... (more >>>)
Auto Legend: Ford Marketing Guru and spiritual father of the Mustang, the Lincoln Continental Mark III, the Ford Maverick and Pinto, the Chrysler Minivan, the K-car and its many variants, Lee Iacocca has died at age 94 from complications from Parkinson's Disease. He was president at FoMoCo and was spectacularly fired by Hank the Duece. He then went on to become head and charismatic savior of nearly-dead Chrysler Corporation, borrowing $1.5 billion from the federal government and paying all of it back within a few years.
Lee was a true automotive visionary. While Lee never designed nor engineered any of the cars cited, he championed them and used his power and influence to make them a reality. He had street-level smarts about what the public would buy.
Lido Anthony Iacocca was born in Allentown, PA and as the son of an Italian immigrant hot-dog vendor He grew up in humble conditions but made history as the only executive in modern times to preside over the operations of two of the Big Three automakers. Lee Iacocca was originally trained as an engineer, with a degree from Lehigh University. And was hired by Ford shortly after graduation.
"Lee was one of few truly great leaders," said Bob Lutz - a longtime executive at Ford and Chrysler who worked closely with Iacocca. "He was my mentor, my teacher and role model. When he was on, he was fabulous. I will miss him. I owe the second half of my career to Lee Iacocca. All in all, we had a relationship like a father and son."
How can anyone ever forget his series of memorable 1980s television commercials for Chrysler in which he dared consumers, "If you can find a better car, buy it!" And, don't forget, he helped resurrect the Ford racing program in the 1960s. He also brought Carroll Shelby into the Ford performance fold.
In the 1980s, Lee became chairman of a project to restore the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and was in demand for speeches and public appearances that took on the color of a campaign. He also founded a charity to help find a cure for diabetes, a disease which claimed the life of his first wife, Mary.
I enjoyed reading his autobiography and found it inspiring. We shall not see his like again. RIP. (permalink)
Also, 'Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In' star Arte Johnson has died at age 90 of bladder and prostate cancer. On 'Laugh-In', which ran from 1968 to '73, he was most familiar as Wolfgang, the heavily-accented German soldier who thought World War II was still going on. His catchphrase "Very interesting …" was one of many that caught on from the hit show. Arte's other well-known character was as the dirty old man Tyrone F. Horneigh, who sat down on a park bench and mumbled off-color remarks to Ruth Buzzi, who - inevitably - whacked him on the head with her umbrella. Johnson also did extensive voice work for cartoons as well as audiobook readings. RIP.
Fourth Report: We had a wonderful Independence Day celebration. Flags were put outside, I cooked Don't-Bother-Me Burgers on my propane grill and my wife served up a batch of her Famous Potato Salad. My daughter and son-in-law were with us and enjoyed the food.
I should note that 100 or so miles south of here, my son had his own cookout and prepared "Latin Elvis" burgers - peanut butter, 2 kinds of jelly, fried rum-soaked banana and thick bacon.
We spent time watching television. The D.C. parade was something to behold (we only saw parts of it), President Trump's inspiring speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial was one of his best and struck just the right tone. "As we gather this evening, in the joy of freedom, we remember that we all share a truly extraordinary heritage," President Trump said. "Together, we are part of one of the greatest stories ever told - the story of America."
It was awesome to see the B-2 stealth bomber flanked by F-22 Raptor stealth fighters fly over the crowd at the Mall. Until I saw the F-22s off its wingtips, I didn't realize how huge the B-2 is. And the Blue Angels were incredibly impressive as well.
I think the best part was when ... (more >>>)
Humor Is Dead - Connect the Dots: The cute little eight year-old girl who did funny parody videos of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had to delete her account after her family was doxxed and received death threats. And Mad magazine is shutting down.
Humorless PC Snowflakes have killed funny stuff.
Bizarro World: Jack Baruth calls it 'Clown World' - but it's too bizarre for that. It's a world where everything is crazy. One where "more than seven thousand homeless people are defecating in public on a constant basis." Where you pay $4-7,00 per month to live in a condo where tramps crap at your front door every 12 days on average. A world where "the street-shitting homeless and the undocumented healthcare recipients and the tough guys driving unmuffled '98 Civics right past the LAPD headquarters? They've adapted to the system and it works for them. They can flash-mob a BART or drop trou in front of your $1.965 million residence, secure in the knowledge that it's more hassle to arrest them than it's worth. Most of them receive some sort of government assistance which incentivizes their behavior."
Jack noted that the "average urgent-care physician earns $211,000 a year, which sounds outstanding. Except you have all those loans to repay, and you repay them with post-tax money, so in reality you bring home seven grand a month. A fortune by the standards of the temp laborers and contract hires endlessly peregrinating between WeWorks, but it won't buy you a decent lifestyle on the coasts." Jack paints a bleak picture in his article and neither he nor I have answers.
I don't worry about myself or my wife. We're old and financially secure. My children are old enough that they should be OK, too. But I worry about my grandchild and how he will deal with this crazy environment, where nothing makes sense anymore and values - moral, educational, compensation and cultural - seem upside-down.
Maybe Having Jar Jar Binks As A Greeter Wasn't Such A Great Idea: Disney's Star Wars theme park is apparently a galaxy-sized flop. Galaxy's Edge is now open to the public and its lines are shorter than a Scientology indoctrination center. Set your lightsaber to 'Disappoint'.
I heard that the next Star Wars movie is going to be called 'The Force Goes Back To Sleep'.
Quote Of The Day is from P.J. O'Rourke: "In general, life is better than it ever has been, and if you think that, in the past, there was some golden age of pleasure and plenty to which you would, if you were able, transport yourself, let me say one single word: 'dentistry'"
Wednesday July 3, 2019
Free Shipping: I recently ordered a 1:43 scale model of a 1958 Plymouth Fury. The diecast model was offered by Greenlight Collectibles and was made in China. It is part of Greenlight's Hollywood series and depicts the red and white Plymouth used in the movie 'Christine'. It's a nice model, priced at under $20.00.
Unfortunately ... (more >>>)
Mini Crisis: A past chairman of the Mini dealer council has sued BMW of North America, alleging that BMW breached its dealership agreement by failing to promote and develop the Mini brand.
David Peterson's Mini of Louisville (Kentucky) is one of five U.S. Mini dealerships that have closed in recent months amid anemic sales and dwindling profitability. In addition to Mini of Louisville, Mini dealerships in San Francisco, CA; Plano, TX; Daytona Beach, FL.; and Little Rock, AR, have gone out of business.
Peterson claims that BMW has not sufficiently advertised Mini and its vehicles and is helping only some Mini dealers by allowing integration with BMW dealerships. Mini's U.S. sales peaked in 2013 at 66,502. Expected 2019 sales will be in the 36,000 range. U.S. Sales of the new Mini began in Spring 2002.
Oh No! The legendary 1970 Ferrari Modulo concept car caught fire due to a defective muffler. Damage to the wild one-off seems repairable and even when singed, the car still looks ... (more >>>)
OSHA Bullies: In an article published in Plastics Distributor & Fabricator magazine, John F. Podojil asks, "Does OSHA Cite Employers Equally?" He wrote, "The simple answer is no. The United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) does not cite employers equally. If you view their website you will see that in many ways OSHA picks on smaller employers and levies higher penalties while big well-known companies get away with either no penalties or very low penalties for the same hazardous conditions. Does this seem fair to you? Even the Senate had a hearing and wrote a document on these major company violators but the government still grants them millions of dollars in contracts while all along the government knows that these companies still violate the law and seriously injure or even kill their workers."
I agree. When I owned a plastics manufacturing business, we were often at odds with Oregon's OSHA. They nitpicked us to death. We would recently appeal their fines and win. OSHA tried to cite us for keeping a bottle of aspirin in our first-aid cabinet. They also attempted to cite us for having a hinged Plexiglas cover over emergency blankets, preferring that these blankets get exposed to random dust and germs instead of being protected. (We refused to remove the cover and threatened to call a press conference, exposing the bureaucratic incompetence. Suddenly, the acrylic cover was deemed 'acceptable practice'.) I always suspected that OSHA wouldn't try to pull these shenanigans on Intel, Boeing or Precision Castparts.
It's good to have my suspicions validated by Mr.Podojil, who has over 40 years of experience in the Industrial Safety, Health and Environmental field.
Is The Pope Catholic? I just dunno anymore. Recently, Pope Francis basically said that there was no 'multiplication' of loaves and fishes: it was just sharing. Yeah, well maybe Jesus just stashed some boxes of Franzia White Zin in a basement at Cana. Perhaps the paralyzed dude just had a charley horse and Lazarus wasn't really dead; he ... (more >>>)
Bowing To Comrade Kaepernick: Nike is yanking a sneaker featuring the 'Betsy Ross flag' after Colin Kaepernick said he and others consider the symbol to be offensive.
Josh Hawley wrote ... (more >>>)
Book Review: Game Of Thorns: The Inside Story of Hillary Clinton's Failed Campaign and Donald Trump's Winning Strategy' by Doug Wead
I've already read and reviewed several accounts of the 2016 election campaign but this book was recommended to me, so I decided to give it a try. I found it to be an easy read and somewhat informative. The author provides multiple reasons why Hillary lost, including ... (more >>>)
Investment Advice … from Rob Sharps, head of investments and group chief investment officer, T. Rowe Price (June 2019): "Markets are near highs and risks are rising, so it's not time to be a hero. It's a good time to be diversified, invest strategically, and have your shopping list ready in case stocks pull back and go on sale."
Thought For Today: The pharmacist asked me my birth date again today. I'm pretty sure she's going to get me something.
Monday July 1, 2019
"Those Who Evade Convention Are Rare. We Believe You're One Of The Rare Few." That's how Audi apparently feels about me. That's why they are "extending this offer on a bold progressive Audi to you."
Well, flattery will always get my attention, Audi. It will also get me a $6,000 discount on a 2019 A8. Or $5,000 off on an A6, $4,000 off an A7. The nicely done color mailer showed up last week.
The Magic Hour: At 9:00 am Saturday, the roads were practically empty. Either people were sleeping in or had already left for their destination. There are usually a lot of bicyclists on Saturday mornings; none were to be seen.
After days of pouring rain, thunder, lighting and the like, Saturday morning was sunny with mostly cloudless blue skies and good views of a still snow-capped Mt. St. Helens. The temperature was a moderate 59 degrees; it topped out at 81 by afternoon.
Naturally, I made these observations while taking a very enjoyable drive in my '39 Plymouth coupe. I felt like I owned the road.
TTAC Death Watch: Fifteen or so years ago, when Robert Farago started The Truth About Cars, he published intelligent articles critical of Detroit. He dissed vehicles - and companies - that deserved it. He also initiated various death watches - for Chrysler, General Motors and others.
Recently, Jack Baruth disclosed that he "tried to buy TTAC twice in the past year, with Robert Farago in late 2018 and then again a few months ago as an agent of Hagerty. The owners don't want to sell. Which is a shame. I think I could resurrect the site. I don't think I'm giving away much of a secret (Alexa hints at the situation) when I tell you that Hagerty's traffic increase since my first day on the job is actually larger than TTAC's entire audience."
TTAC is a once-great car site which has devolved to a fawning Press Release firehose. Entropy affects just about everything, including spinning tops, movie remakes, television series, blogs, Facebook, once-hot actresses, personal health and machinery. Some things go downhill faster than others.
The decline in overall content quality at The Truth About Cars over the past few years has been steep and quite noticeable. TTAC is on its death bed. The interesting vehicular discussion and commentary that once made the site so interesting has degraded to smart aleck sniping by a bunch of mouth-breathers - of the ilk that troll at AutoBlog. Sad.
The Case For Plastic Bags: A 2018 study by the Danish Ministry of Environment and Food looked not just at plastic waste, but also at climate-change damage, ozone depletion, human toxicity and other indicators. It found you must reuse an organic cotton shopping bag 20,000 times before it will have less climate damage than a plastic bag.
Bjorn Lomborg wrote, "If we use the same shopping bag every single time we go to the store, twice every week, it will still take 191 years before the overall environmental effect of using the cotton bag is less than if we had just used plastic.
Even a simple paper bag requires 43 reuses to be better for the environment far beyond the point at which the bag will be fit for the purpose.
The study clearly shows that a simple plastic bag, reused as a trash bag, has the smallest environmental impact of any of the choices." Lower environmental impact was the basis for the use of plastic bags in the 1970s. Paper bags were then considered an ecological disaster due to dioxins and other harmful chemicals which ended up in the water supply near paper mills.
From The Land Of Monty Python: British Police propose to reduce domestic violence by distributing less-pointy knives.
Happy 90th Birthday ... to the Wellington Fund, a mutual fund which began operations on July 1, 1929, just months before the worst stock market crash in U.S. history and the onset of the Great Depression.
A young Philadelphia accountant named Walter L. Morgan was its founder and the fund offered a diverse portfolio of common stocks, preferred stocks and high-quality corporate and U.S. government bonds. Despite Walter's awful timing, the groundbreaking fund - originally called the Industrial and Power Securities Company - hung on, thanks to its prudent management, balance, diversification and long-term perspective.
But the fund (which was renamed in 1935 for the Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo) didn't simply survive - it thrived. For more than eight decades, Wellington Management Company has served the fund's shareholders well, using the very same investment principles that guided it through the Great Depression. Those timeless themes still ring true today.
Wellington isn't very flashy and gets little notice from those investment gurus du jour. But, as I got older, I began to shift some of my investments away from some all-stock mutual funds into Wellington. I have not been disappointed.
In the 1950s, my grandmother owned Wellington Fund shares and during her 90-year life, she never ran out of money.
Winning: In the first 6 months of 2019, the S&P 500 stock index rose 17.35% (18.53% with dividends reinvested), marking its biggest first half gain since 1997. The Dow-Jones Industrial Average had its best June performance since 1938 - up 7.2% in a single month.
Circle Gets The Square! Maybe all presidential primary debates should be done in a 'Hollywood Squares' format. Peter Marshall could host them. By the way, of all the candidates on both sides, I bet Trump, Biden and - maybe - Bernie are the only ones who know how to drive a stick-shift. Some may not even know how to drive. And Butageig's "wedding limo" was a red Studebaker Lark - go figure.
Another Sign The End Times Are Near: Democratic candidate and professional scold Elizabeth 'Pocahontas' Warren has promised Gay Reparations if she's elected president.
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell (who just tured 89): "People who live within their means are increasingly being forced to pay for people who didn't live within their means - whether individual home buyers here or whole nations in Europe."
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