A Blog About Cars ... And More
Thursday January 30, 2020
AutoSketch: 1964 Lincoln Continental - Improved Greatness
The 1961 Lincoln Continental was a gorgeous design which set Lincoln on a new course. But it wasn't perfect. People complained about things like a poor ventilating system for the air-conditioner (fixed in '62) as well as poor rear legroom and small trunk capacity. These were addressed with the 1964 model.
The redesigned '64 Lincoln Continental retained the basic styling theme from 1961 but contained revisions which materially improved the product. The new ... (more >>>)
History Tidbit: Initially, Preston Tucker had Stewart Warner make a custom 5-in-1 gauge cluster for his cars. After the fall of the Tucker Corporation, SW sold the design to Seagrave for their fire trucks. Photo here. (hat tip: Just A Car Guy)
RIP, Mr. Peanut: Planters has announced that its Mr. Peanut mascot will be killed off during a 30-second Super Bowl commercial. While driving his Nutmobile, Mr. Peanut will head off a cliff after swerving in an attempt to avoid hitting an armadillo.
The Planters Co. was founded by Amedeo Obici, an Italian immigrant who came to America as a child. When he got older, he started a fruit and nut stand in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Mr. Peanut became his firm's mascot in 1916.
In 1930, the Planters Company opened a peanut shop on the Atlantic City boardwalk. There were peanut roasters in the window and the aroma of freshly roasted peanuts spread out the door and all along the boardwalk. In addition to roasted nuts of all kinds, the store also sold … (more >>>)
Here's To Ya: Americans are drinking more now than just before Prohibition Well, I'm certainly drinking more than I was before Prohibition.
"In the late 1910s, just before Congress banned the sale and manufacture of alcoholic beverages, each American teen and adult was downing just under 2 gallons of alcohol a year on average. These days it's about 2.3 gallons, according to federal calculations. That works out to nearly 500 drinks, or about nine per week. Historians say drinking was heaviest in the early 1800s, with estimates that in 1830 the average U.S. adult downed the equivalent of 7 gallons a year."
In 1934, a year after Prohibition was repealed, per-capita consumption was under 1 gallon. It's been up and down since then. The apex was a heavy-drinking spell in the 1970s and 1980s, when U.S. per-person alcohol consumption was 2.75 gallons.
Six Degrees Of Gourmet Bacon: Émile Jung, the French chef who founded the Au Crocodile restaurant in 1971, in Strasbourg, Alsase has died at age 78. Le Crocodile in Vancouver, BC , was named after Au Crocodile after chef Michel Jacob visited the French restaurant as a young man. In 2012, we enjoyed a delightful dinner at Le Crocodile during a trip to Vancouver in 2012.
At the meal's conclusion, every diner is presented with a pair of chocolate crocodiles - one dark, one milk (see photo above right).
Book Review: 'Ghost Work: How to Stop Silicon Valley from Building a New Global Underclass' by Mary L. Gray and Siddharth Suri
In the last century, there was much piecework. "I'll pay you $x to clear this land." "I'll pay you y¢ per button to sew them on shirts." Because of abuses by unscrupulous employers in the early 20th Century, various labor laws were enacted, causing employers to offer guaranteed hourly wages rather than paying by the task.
In the 1980s ... (more >>>)
Amazingly, He Sounds Just Like Mel Brooks: Scientists have recreated the voice of a 3,000 year-old Egyptian.
Quote Of The Day is from the late, great Louis Rukeyser on the stock market: "The market will fluctuate. It will fluc up and fluc down."
Tuesday January 28, 2020
Buh-Bye: Production of the exotic BMW i8 supercar will end in April. Introduced in 2014, it is currently priced at $147,500.
"The i8 was a technological - and design - marvel when it bowed over half a decade ago, yet its performance never seemed to match its stratospheric price tag. Plug-in hybrids were still a new thing at the time, and the slinky i8 was undoubtedly the most complex one on offer.
Three electric motors and a 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder combined to create 357 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, though its EPA-rated electric range was only 15 miles. After that, the car operated as a conventional hybrid. When pushed hard, some reviewers noted performance loss as the car attempted to replenish its electric reserves on the fly."
The i8's best sales year, both in the U.S. and in Europe, was 2015. Deliveries totaled just over 2,000 vehicles in both markets that year. I've never seen one in person.
Car Club Decline: Mark Vaughn of Autoweek wrote recently about the decline of interest in car clubs.
Example: "It wasn't that long ago that the Horseless Carriage Club's Southern California region had more than 200 members. To participate in one of the club's drives required a 1915 or older car. And there were plenty of those. Now, however, there are not only fewer old cars left in running order but fewer old guys interested in or able to keep them going. Is it a symptom of a national disease in collector cardom? The annual Holiday Motor Excursion of the Horseless Carriage Club of Southern California may be a harbinger of things to come for car clubs, as older members age out and fewer and fewer younger members step in to crank the starters and advance the sparks."
"Twenty years ago we had 200 members - we're at 85 now," said Horseless Carriage Club president Pete Eastwood. "Kinda the whole car thing's shrinking, ya know, aging out."
Thirty years ago, I belonged to three car clubs. One is now defunct and another has lost about half its members. The third saw its membership peak in 1995 and has since shrunk by two-thirds.
Matchbox Money: A collector sold his nearly 3,000 piece Matchbox toy vehicle collection for $390.000. One toy reportedly sold for over $9,000.
Britisher 68 year-old Simon Hope began his collection when his parents started buying them for him at age 2. The passion infiltrated his imagination, but he was not one to drive them on the wall in the bath or down the driveway outside. "I simply opened the box, took the model out, looked it all over, ran it a couple of times along the table or floor, and promptly put it back in the box," he said. He's keeping 1,500 of his Matchbox favorites, though.
Too bad he didn't get to play with his toys as a child. It brought to mind this cartoon:
Good News: The cancer death rate in the U.S. dropped 2.2% from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop ever recorded, according to the latest report from the American Cancer Society, continuing a long-standing decline that began a quarter-century ago.
The drop is largely driven by progress against lung cancer, though the most rapid declines in the report occurred in melanoma. Advances in treatment are helping improve survival rates in the two cancers, experts say.
Book Review: 'How We Win: How Cutting-Edge Entrepreneurs, Political Visionaries, Enlightened Business Leaders, and Social Media Mavens Can Defeat the Extremist Threat' by Farah Pandith
While this book contained an interesting analysis and detailed information about the threat of radical Islam, it ... (more >>>)
Focus On What's Critical For America's Citizens: Scott Adams tweeted, "The biggest story today should be that impeachment is sidelining our government from protecting us while the Coronavirus spreads. Thanks for nothing."
Quote Of The Day is from The Simpsons' Lenny: "There's nothing like revenge for getting back at people."
Friday January 24, 2020
Waiting For Service: The Old Motor posted photos taken in July 1946 at a Firestone Service Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
There is a '39 Plymouth coupe in the photo with ... (more >>>)
Little Tesla In Big China: As car manufacturers struggle with the downturn in China's car sales, and some large car makers posted double-digit declines last year, Tesla's sales have surged and rose to over 40,000 last year. "In 2019, the total number of Tesla registrations increased by 161% year-over-year, from 16,360 to 42,715."
A Belated Happy 50th: Once a Hot Wheels wannabe, now an established brand in its own right, Johnny Lightning diecast vehicles turned 50 in 2019.
The brand, launched by Topper Toys in 1969, was surely a response to Hot Wheels’ feverish reception in 1968. "The models themselves were largely based on popular production cars at the time - Camaro, Charger, Mustang, Toronado, and the like, with wild nose and tail treatments. Bodies and chassis were die-cast metal. JLs were widely looked upon as aping Mattel's ultra-successful Hot Wheels models, with their piano-wire axles, bushed wheels, and emphasis on speed instead of outright detail. (Early JL models also sported opening features and translucent paint over a polished body for an eye-catching finish.)"
1971 would prove fatal to Johnny Lightning ... (more >>>)
Comings And Goings: According to census data, states with the most incoming residents are Florida, Texas, Arizona North Carolina and South Carolina. States with the most fleeing residents are California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey and Massachusetts.
People are choosing low-tax states, where jobs are plentiful, regulations are less onerous and there are fewer social experiments, such as sanctuary cities and sidewalk homeless encampments. People are fleeing high-tax states which offer poor services to regular, working citizens and which suffer from crumbling infrastructure and a plethora of people on the dole.
Prayers Needed: Catholic site Rorate Caeli recently tweeted, "The weakest link in the Middle East are the remaining Christians in the area, the descendants of the first Christians in the world.
Let us pray for safety for our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East." Amen to that.
Celebrity Death Predictions: The 2020 Old Blue Eyes Memorial Celebrity Death Watch has been prepared. 124 people entered the contest and picked their entries. The top 10 picks are: Kirk Douglas, Jimmy Carter, Olivia de Havilland, Prince Phillip, Bob Dole, Alex Trebek, Bob Barker, actor Norman Lloyd, actress Beverly Cleary and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Only one person picked Edd Byrnes who died in January. On the other hand, five people picked Terry Jones, who died this week.
Personally, I wish all of the people on the Death Watch List good health and a long life.
"And Don't Skimp On The Pâté." Terry Jones, the very talented co-creator and member of the Monty Python troupe, has died at age 77 from complications of dementia. He was a Welsh actor, writer, comedian, screenwriter, film director, poet and historian. Jones directed all three of the Python feature films and famously played Mr. Creosote. "Yeah, I'll have six bottles of Château Latour '45 and a double Jeroboam of champagne." A wafer-thin mint? "Look. I couldn't eat another thing. I'm absolutely stuffed. Bugger off."
I was a big fan of Monty Python's Flying Circus when it was broadcast on public television in the early 1970s. I saw 'Holy Grail' when it first debuted. In those days, it took months or years before a new release would make it to the 'burbs, so we traveled from Mt. Laurel, NJ to a downtown Philadelphia movie theater for the viewing. It was worth the trip; I laughed myself sick. And, of course, I went to see 'Spamalot' when it finally came to Portland in 2007.
And: "But I'm not dead yet. Actually, I'm getting better. I think I'll go for a walk. I feel happy. I feel happy. I may be ready to dance ..." RIP, Mr. Jones.
Quote Of The Day is from Zack Bowman at Road & Track: "Why does a Lamborghini have a Sport setting? Didn't you buy the expensive loud one?"
Wednesday January 22, 2020
2020 Scottsdale Auctions: F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, "Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft, where we are hard, cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand."
Yes, the rich are indeed different. Someone who pays millions for a single Ferrari does not just have one collector car. Or one Ferrari. Typically, he has a collection - 20 to 50 cars. He employs several mechanics just to care for them. Often, such folk own a tricked-out enclosed car carrier to transport their prized vehicles to shows. It's fair to assume that this person's collection is worth north of $30 million. The kind of person who has such a collection is quite rich, probably worth a half-billion or more.
This is a lot different than the middle-aged car guy who owns one or two old cars. Such guys (and almost all car collectors are guys) treasure their automobiles and keep them for a long time. They're not particularly interested in trading up or in optimizing the investment value of their vehicular portfolio.
Looking at the televised Barrett-Jackson events, I'd guess ... (more >>>)
Nice, But Still Needs A Nose Job: Dan Neil tested the 2020 Lexus LS and noted its fugly front end. "In the eyes of at least a few readers, Lexus leaned into the ugly with its fifth-generation LS sedan (2018) and the related LC coupe. Both cars were born with especially exuberant versions of the company's "spindle" grille design - though it strikes me as more of a cinched corset, or a sack of gold, or a purse seine, gravid with black fish. … Although initially polarizing, Lexus's bold grille design and biomimetic styling has paid off in the market, increasing sales and helping to bring down the average age of buyers. …. I've grown accustomed to its lemon-sucking face."
Other than that, Dan liked the big sedan noting that it "felt thoroughly built, solid, with body rigidity like an Hermès framing hammer. The steel unibody is hung with aluminum body panels, hood and trunk lid…. Fast or slow, the air suspension does the trick. The LS's ride quality is exemplary, cloud-hung and tranquil, digesting road-surface impacts without a tremor."
"Our test car came from a good home. Toyota's Tahara plant is situated on a lovely rural peninsula near Nagoya known for its vegetable and flower production. Tahara was featured in Thomas L. Friedman's 1999 book 'The Lexus and the Olive Tree' as exemplifying the dual disruptions to Western auto makers of automation and excellence.
The LS that arrived at my house - in stately "Nightfall Mica" paint, miles deep and flawless - was a credit to its nation. Among its charms was the sculpted, geometrically satisfying front console - which in our test car was trussed with glove-soft leather and tied with silk-thread stitching. Even the bezel around the 8-inch instrument panel was finely stitched. On the passenger side of the dash is a laser-etched panel - Kiriko glass - with lines that intersect and graphically counterbalance the dash's larger contours. The door pulls gleamed with guitar-quality wood trim. Some upholstery packages offer leather door trim with hand-folded, origami-like leather pleats. The indirect lighting is inspired by traditional Japanese lanterns. Beautiful." Well ... beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Even Tony Bennett Wouldn't Leave His Heart There Anymore: Recently Don Surber wrote about San Francisco.
"Just a few years ago, it was a nice if expensive place to live. Sure you had some problem areas, but all cities do. Democrats decided to turn it into a toilet. The city fathers stopped enforcing basic sanitation laws. People are pooping and shooting drugs in the streets with impunity. This is their vision of America, a land overrun by illegal aliens and homeless drug abusers. Which may explain why Democrats have no quality candidate for president.
What person of any integrity wants to lead the party of poop? Even Hillary won't run. This is why their leading candidate is Joe Biden, who finished fifth in Iowa in 2008 with less than 1% of the vote. I wont say they are scraping the bottom of the barrel, but they are."
Fire Sale: Gift shops near Windsor Castle have cut prices on Prince Harry and Meghan merchandise following their split from the royal family.
Book Review: 'Talking To Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know' by Malcolm Gladwell
I once worked with a guy who was always helpful to me and, as an old hand, taught me a lot about the industry I had just entered. He later murdered his wife in cold blood with a shotgun. Everyone at work was shocked; they always thought of him as a nice guy. Boy, were we fooled.
Malcolm Gladwell believes that something is wrong in the way we perceive others. His book is ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Will Rogers: "Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for."
Monday January 20, 2020
Maserati Death Watch: In September, Dan Neil wrote in the Wall Street Journal, "I took delivery of a 2019 Maserati Quattroporte GTS GranSport last week, which turned out to be very much like the one delivered in 2015, except where it was worse. This design generation of the large executive sedan is on a long coast-down; Fiat-Chrysler won't replace this car until late 2020, as part of a promised new-product offensive of 10 new or revised vehicles by 2023.
Meanwhile, Mazzer's sales are in free fall. Second-quarter sales were down 17% (7,200 units) and that was the smallest drop in 10 quarters! Maserati lost $132 million in Q2 alone. Obviously, to management, 2023 looks a long way off."
Dan's test vehicle stickered at $150,419. He noted, "The car's (optional) Driver's Assistance Package lane-keeping system - which is surprisingly hard to turn off - would often rudely shove the car to the center of the lane, to the point where the inputs were unsettling the car. Hmm. I hate that. And if I held the steering wheel with one hand, on either of the lower two quarters, the car would issue a stern rebuke, an alert sound, to put both hands on the wheel. If you ignore the first warning, an even louder sounds. Hmm. I really hate that. This old horse should be headed for the glue factory."
Maserati never carried the cachet of Ferrari, even in the 1950s when both specialized in racing cars. The most recent batch of Mazzer offerings have been plagued with numerous reliability problems which further diminished the brand's reputation.
It Guess The Name Now Stands For The 'Hum' Of Its Electric Motor: General Motors will revive the Hummer name (but not the brand) on a GMC electric pickup scheduled for introduction in 2022.
"The Hummer brand came to an end in 2010 after no one in the U.S., China, or elsewhere wanted to touch this brand during GM's post-bankruptcy meltdown in 2009."
But Hey, The Fish Died Happy: Jim Beam has been fined $600,000 for a massive bourbon spill that killed fish.
"The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources found dead fish along 62 miles of Glenns Creek and the Kentucky River."
Niche Book: Ten or so years ago, experts predicted that ebooks would kill off the print book industry. It hasn't happened.
"The Amazon Kindle, which was introduced in 2007, effectively mainstreamed ebooks." Today, ebook sales "have stabilized at around 20% of total book sales, with print sales making up the remaining 80%."
Why? Because the digital natives of Gen Z and the millennial generation have very little interest in buying ebooks. "They're glued to their phones, they love social media, but when it comes to reading a book, they want John Green in print," says Andrew Albanese, a senior writer at trade magazine Publishers Weekly. The people who are actually buying ebooks? Mostly boomers. "Older readers are glued to their e-readers," says Albanese. "They don't have to go to the bookstore. They can make the font bigger. It's convenient."
Printing and binding and shipping - the costs that ebooks eliminated - accounted for only two dollars of the cost of a hardcover mainly because many books, especially ones with a lot of color photography, are printed in Asia, where labor costs are low. As for me, I don't own an e-reader. Nor does my wife. We have stacks of print books to read - many from our local library.
Tweet Of The Day is from Dave Burge: "I'm old enough to remember when Americans were the affluent status-seeking businessmen buying up Buicks, and when the Chinese were the fanatical Luddite brainwashed commies on bicycles."
Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: The United Methodist Church is expected to split into more than one denomination in an attempt to bring to a close a years-long and contentious fight over same-sex marriage.
The United Methodist Church is the United States' largest mainline Protestant denomination, with around 12 million members in the U.S. There are 80 million Methodists worldwide. I guess whatever the new name(s) is/are, they won't contain the word "united" in them.
The historic schism would divide the third-largest religious denomination in the United States.
"Leaders of the church announced they had agreed to spin off a "traditionalist Methodist" denomination, which would continue to oppose same-sex marriage and to refuse ordination to LGBT clergy, while allowing the remaining portion of the United Methodist Church to permit same-sex marriage and LGBT clergy for the first time in its history."
The writers of the plan called the division "the best means to resolve our differences, allowing each part of the Church to remain true to its theological understanding, while recognizing the dignity, equality, integrity, and respect of every person."
Christopher Johnson noted, "It's there and you can't negotiate your way around it. The idea that any organization, particularly any Christian church, can or ever should allow two contradictory opinions to be held by its members at the same time is understood by most intelligent people to be patently idiotic.
You will recognize this at some point. The only question is when."
Your Tax Dollars And Donations At Waste: Puerto Rico's director of emergency management has been fired after a warehouse was discovered with supplies dating back to 2017's deadly Hurricane Maria. Video showed a warehouse in the southwestern city of Ponce filled with supplies (food, diapers, baby formula, cots, tarps), including thousands of cases of water. The hurricane left 2,975 people dead and caused major problems in Puerto Rico for months, including power outages and shortages of food, water and medicine.
Carlos Acevedo, the now-fired director of emergency management, complained, "The person who took the video of inside the warehouse 'violated the security perimeter'." Wow … just wow. Good riddance.
Thought For Today: Every year, the United Nations celebrates Anti-Corruption Day. I thought ‘corruption’ was the main mission of the UN.
Thursday January 16, 2020
Goin' Nowhere: In 2019, we did less driving than last year. As a retired couple who don't do much long-distance car travel, we put less than 6,700 mile on our three automobiles.
My wife racked up 3,056 miles on her 2005 Toyota Avalon; the odometer read 74,510 miles at year's end. My 2008 Lexus LS 460 showed 39,411 miles on the odometer; 3,253 miles were added in 2019.
My 1939 Plymouth coupe experienced 366 miles of fun in 2018, driving around the back roads of North Clark County.
Speedy Transfer: Mickey and Danny Thompson's record-setting 1968 Challenger 2 Bonneville streamliner crossed the auction block for the surprisingly low price of $510,000 last week.
Danny Thompson is the man who set the record in 2018 by driving the Challenger 2 to a record 448.757 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Yet the 71-year-old told Autoweek that he's been living on Social Security, his wife hasn't had a reliable car to drive, and they have debts. "I made the biggest mistake you can make in motorsports. I borrowed money to go racing."
Thompson is the son of legendary drag racer and engineer Mickey Thompson, who built the original version of the Challenger 2 as a successor to the Challenger 1, which he raced to an unofficial 406.6 mph at Bonneville in 1960. I've written more about Mickey Thompson here.
Like A 1957 Ford Skyliner: Chevrolet has announced that Corvette buyers will be able to opt for a retractable hardtop on their Stingrays - another first in the sports car's 60-plus year history.
The new convertible's power hardtop was engineered to stow seamlessly into the body, maintaining the Stingray's ability to store two sets of golf clubs in the trunk even with the top down. The convertible also keeps the coupe's front storage compartment free to stow an airline-spec carry-on and a laptop bag.
No Show: This time of year is usually when I write about the Detroit Auto Show. Starting this year, North American International Auto Show has moved from snowy, cold January to June 7-20, 2020.
And The Winners Are … Even though there was no Detroit Auto Show in January, that didn't stop a 50-member jury of independent journalists from naming the all-new Chevrolet Corvette Stingray as the 2020 North American Car of the Year.
The Kia Telluride was named 2020 North American Utility Vehicle of the Year and the Jeep Gladiator was named the 2020 North American Truck of the Year.
Book Review: 'Those Were The Days ... The American Dream: Chevrolet Impala 1958-1970' by Norm Mort
As I've mentioned before, "Those Were The Days …" is a series of small (7.5 x 8 inches), 100 or so page, softcover books about specialty automotive subjects. The books are moderately-priced ($25) and chock-full of photos, mostly in color.
The Impala name was first used in 1956 on a 4-5 passenger one-off, concept car - the Corvette Impala. This GM Motorama show car featured a Corvette-style grille and a C-pillar/rear window treatment similar to the production 1958 Impala. Otherwise, the concept car and production car had little in common.
General Motors introduced the production Impala in 1958 as a ... (more >>>)
Political Tweet Of The Week is from Johnny Deplorable: "Donald Trump has been in Politics for 3 years and is running in 2020 based off his accomplishments. Joe Biden has been in Politics for over 40 years and is running in 2020 based off what he wants to accomplish."
From Your Parish's Collection Basket: Pennsylvania's Roman Catholic dioceses have paid nearly $84 million to 564 victims of sexual abuse, a tally that's sure to grow substantially in the new year as compensation fund administrators work through a backlog of claims.
Seven of the state's eight dioceses launched victim compensation funds in the wake of a landmark grand jury report on sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.
The funds were open to claims for a limited time this year. They are independently administered, though each diocese set its own rules on eligibility.
Financial Tip: If your bank returns your check marked "Insufficient Funds," ask if they mean you or them.
Good Times For Many: The Foundation For Economic Education has pointed out that "in 1820, 94% of the world's population lived in extreme poverty. In 1990, 34.8%, and in 2015, just 9.6%." You can thank technology, the spread of democracy and capitalism.
Of those who still live in extreme poverty, over 40% resided in just two nations: India and Nigeria.
Quote Of The Day: "A fool and his money are good for business."
Tuesday January 14, 2020
Big Barge: The 1958 Lincolns and Continentals were totally new in body and appearance and were assembled in a new plant. The bodies were completely restyled with an aggressive, angular look replacing the Futura dream car-inspired styling on the '56 and '57 Lincolns. The 1958 Lincolns had unit body construction; they were the largest and heaviest frameless passenger cars ever made. The '58 models weighed 5,000 pounds and, at 229 inches long, they were the longest non-limo Lincolns ever made to date.
This 1:43 scale Neo model was resin-cast in China. Neo is a ... (more >>>)
Cars As Investments: Hagerty's 2020 Bull Market List of collector cars on the rise includes the 1990-95 Volkswagen Corrado, 1999-2005 Ferrari 360, 1971-80 International Harvester Scout, 1984-1992 Jeep Cherokee, 1970-78 Porsche 914 and 1996-2002 Dodge Viper GTS.
Big Bucks: The original Bullitt Mustang GT - from the movie of the same name - was auctioned for $3.4 million at Mecum's Kissimmee, FL auction last week.
"Known as the "hero" car used in filming closeups and driving scenes, while an identical Mustang was setup as a stunt car."
Recycled Pipe Dream: Henrik Fisker, he of the failed Fisker automobile, has - like Preston Tucker and John DeLorean - risen from the automotive ashes and revealed a new vehicle - the Fisker Ocean electric SUV at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show.
Fisker claims that the car will be available in 2022 and that "the company expects to build 1 million EVs between 2022 and 2027." The company is taking $250 reservation deposits on the new vehicle. "Drivers can get behind the wheel of the Fisker Ocean starting at $379 per month with $2,999 down before delivery in 2022, which includes both initiation and activation fees." Based on Henrik's track record, I'd think twice before coughing up any dough.
It should be noted that the prototype unveiled at CES is a non-runner and looks like an old General Motors proposal for a 2016 Saturn Vue. That's sad because Fisker's previous automotive ventures had stunning styling.
"The all-electric SUV will come standard with an extended range (target of approximately 250 to 300 miles, depending on driving conditions), enabled by an approximately 80 kWh lithium-ion battery pack …. The vehicle also uses fully recycled carpeting made from regenerated nylon, which is produced from abandoned fishing net waste pulled from the oceans and aquaculture. Other parts of the interior are vegan, and it meets stringent chemical emission limits for various VOCs (such as formaldehyde).
There are a slew of other features and actions taken in the design and production of the Ocean to reduce pollution, cut carbon dioxide emissions, use recycled materials and repurposed rubber waste to make the new Ocean as green a vehicle as one can find."
So … it's basically made from trash.
Trouble In Tireland: Les Schwab, the Bend, Oregon tire powerhouse known for its customer service, company culture and - once - its fierce commitment to keeping the business in the family, is considering a sale. The privately held company confirmed it had hired Goldman Sachs to find a buyer. It didn't disclose a potential buyer or expected price tag.
Bloomberg News reported earlier that the company expected it could fetch a price of at least $3 billion. The company has $1.8 billion in annual revenue. Les Schwab operates 492 locations across 10 states, including Washington, Oregon and California.
This could be very bad news if the company is acquired by some rape-and-scrape hedge fund. (See Cabella's for such an example. Paul Singer raped the company and Bass Pro Shops wrecked what was left.) I've written about Les Schwab here.
Gun Stats: There are about 30,000 gun-related deaths per year by firearms. What is never shown, though, is a breakdown of those deaths to put them in perspective; as compared to other causes of death:
Hence, "gun violence" is not 30,000 annually but 5,100. How are those deaths spanned across the nation?
Therefore, 25% of all gun crime happens in just four cities. All four cities have strict gun laws so it is not the lack of law that is the root cause. In comparison:
Quote Of The Day is from the late actress Billie Burke (the Good Witch in 'The Wizard of Oz'): "Age doesn't matter, unless you are a cheese."
Friday January 10, 2020
2019 U.S. Vehicle Sales: For the fifth year in a row, U.S. auto sales topped 17 million vehicles - finishing at 17.11 million. Purchases of new vehicles in 2019 declined slightly from the previous year's 17.3 million units. Since reaching a peak of 17.5 million in 2016, total U.S. sales have declined by 2.5%. There were sales declines at big manufacturers such as Fiat-Chrysler (down 1% at 2,203,663 vehicles, 23% of production went to fleets), Ford and Toyota. General Motors' deliveries fell 2% for the year, to 2,887,046 vehicles in 2019. Crossover deliveries totaled 1,165,769 for the year, up 13% versus 2018. A strong economy led to solid consumer confidence, and in turn, a surprisingly decent year for automakers and dealers.
"It's just interesting ... you take that uncertainty they have dealt with and everything that's been going on, and they have cranked out another 17 million-plus in sales," said David Kudla, CEO of Mainstay Capital Management LLC. "As long as the economy is good ... the demand is going to be there."
The year was also dominated by ... (more >>>)
Up In The Air: Hyundai Motor unveiled its personal air vehicle (PAV) concept at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
"Called S-A1, the 'flying taxi' was developed in partnership with Uber Technologies. Its multiple, electrically driven rotors allow for vertical take off before transitioning to wing-based flight when in cruise mode. It will then switch back for vertical landings. It has a range of 60 miles and a cruising speed of up to 180 mph at an altitude of up to 1800 feet. Its batteries can be recharged in seven minutes.
Hyundai said the 'flying taxi' would be operated initially by a pilot but will eventually be driven autonomously once the relevant technology is developed, tested and approved."
Meat: Is There Anything It Can't Do? A New York Post article reports that vegans may get worse hangovers than meat eaters. "Rabia De LaTour, MD, gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Health, says that vegans having low alcohol tolerance is something she hears anecdotally from patients."
Meat - the Miracle Food.
Weaning The List: Dave Burge tweeted, "After reading the entire Cheesecake Factory 50 page menu, looks like Democrats have decided on another order of old white people."
Is His First Name Groucho? Germany's Cardinal Marx said that "homosexual couples can get Blessings."
That Young Liberal Unbeliever Meme Is Accurate: According to the recent Pew Research Survey, "Those born in the '80s and early '90s as well as those who vote for the Democratic Party are the American demographic that has experienced the biggest drop in the practice of religion."
"Leaving churches is a fundamental phenomenon throughout the western region," said Jörg Stolz, professor of sociology of religions at the University of Lausanne. "At one time, it was thought that the United States was the exception, but the latest data confirms that the situation is the same as in Europe or Australia."
Stolz noted that the typical profile of the person who comes out of the Church is "a young person, with an urban lifestyle, who does not feel a particular link with religion”: a category of the population that tends to grow in western countries. And, since the 19th century, "each generation is a little less religious than the previous one. It is likely to continue."
What Will Happen To Elsie The Cow?! Borden, the well known dairy company, which was founded in 1857, has filed for bankruptcy.
"American refrigerators are increasingly stocked with milk substitutes made from soy or almonds, hammering traditional milk and cheese producers. … Dean Foods, the nation's largest milk producer, filed for bankruptcy protection in November." In the past five years, almond milk consumption in the United States has exploded over 250%.
Iran - The Wile E. Coyote Of The Middle East: Both Newsweek and CBS now report that U.S. and Iraqi officials have evidence that the Iranians mistakenly targeted the Ukrainian passenger flight with anti-aircraft fire during their missile attack on American positions in Iraq. Their assessment is not just based on the photos, but also on comms intel that shows Iranian military forces lighting up the flight on its radar before it burst into flames.
It was probably an Acme missile, too.
"Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Urn." Actor Edd Byrnes, who played car valet and hot rodder Kookie on the 1950s television series, '77 Sunset Strip', has died at age 86.
He also was featured in the 1978 film 'Grease' as television teen-dance show host Vince Fontaine.
Darwin At Work: A poll shows that climate change fears put young couples off having children.
That's OK with me. It's probably good for the gene pool if the most gullible people don't have kids.
Quote Of The Day is from Herm Albright: "A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort."
Wednesday January 8, 2020
Asymmetrical: The 1960 Plymouth XNR was a one-off concept car. Designed by Virgil Exner, the red sports roadster was based on the Plymouth Valiant chassis and was developed to show off Chrysler Corporation's new overhead-valve Slant Six engine.
The car was built by Carrozzeria Ghia in Italy. After it completed the U.S. auto show circuit ... (more >>>)
And The Winner Is … according to 24/7 Wall Street, in the merger of Fiat-Chrysler and Peugeot (Groupe PSA): "The Agnelli family, through its ownership stake in FCA, is a clear financial winner, and FCA also gets one of the auto industry's stars in Tavares who has been responsible for pulling Groupe PSA back from the edge of a cliff."
The so-called 'Merger of Equals' - a phrase used to describe the Daimler-Chrysler hook-up of years past - "will create the world’s third-largest automaker measured by revenue and the fourth largest measured by sales volume. The two companies expect the merger to take 12 to 15 months to be completed." Time will tell.
More Money; Better Deals: In 2019, average transaction prices for vehicles climbed above $36,000 for the first time. But, "as sales volumes have struggled, automakers have resorted to greater and greater incentive spending in order to move metal."
According to Automotive News, some automakers are pushing record discounts to clear inventory. BMW, Daimler and FCA topped December's incentive spending; always-plucky Subaru offered the least.
Happy Birthday, Elvis: Yesterday was Elvis Presley's birthday. He would have been 85. And probably would have weighed 850 pounds. Or, as the ever-quotable Yogi Berra might have said, "If Elvis were alive today, he'd be dead!"
Elvis didn't invent rock and roll but he spread the message across America. And the world. Music changed greatly during the postwar era, helped by ... (more >>>)
Never Forget: The Washington Examiner reported that a plurality of Germans think that Donald Trump is a bigger threat to world peace than the leaders of North Korea, Russia, China and Iran. Hmmmmm. Remember what a "plurality of Germans" accomplished in the 1930s?
From A Recent Parish Bulletin: "At a time when much of the Catholic Church seems to be in decline, and abortion and gender ideology are damaging so much of society, Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery is a beacon of hope." It is good to read that our pastor is not a fan of recent politically-correct ideology and is plain-spoken. If only the pope and many of his cardinals spoke so forthrightly.
Incidentally, Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery roasts and sells coffee. From the website: "All proceeds contribute to the expansion of our Monastery in order to receive the many vocations knocking on our doors. We are most grateful for your purchase which greatly helps to support our growing monastic community. May God bless you eternally!"
Not A Good Year For Death Predictions: The 148 players in last year's Old Blue Eyes Memorial Celebrity Death Watch had these as their top picks to die: Kirk Douglas, Bob Dole, Olivia de Havilland, Prince Philip, Jimmy Carter, Beverly Cleary and Bob Barker. All of their top seven picks are still alive. Let's all drink a toast to their continued health!
Of the Top 20 picks only five actually died in 2019. We wish the remaining 15 the best of health also.
Book Review: 'Finding The Bright Side: The Art Of Chasing What Matters' by Shannon Bream
Shannon Bream is well known to Fox News viewers. She is bright, intelligent, thoughtful and asks good questions of guests. 'Finding The Bright Side' is her autobiography. It is a story of many challenges faced, including ... (more >>>)
A Dose Of Their Own Medicine: Comedian and actor Ricky Gervais hosted the Golden Globe Awards for the fifth - and he insists final - time on Sunday and he really ripped all the self-important Hollywood phonies in the audience. "You're in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg," said Mr. Gervais.
"Apple roared into the TV game with 'The Morning Show', a superb drama about the importance of dignity and doing the right thing, made by a company that runs sweat shops in China," Gervais said. "So, well, you say you're woke, but the companies you work for - I mean, unbelievable, Apple, Amazon, Disney. If ISIS started a streaming service, you would call your agent, wouldn’t you?"
Recently, actor/director Martin Scorsese compared the movies that Marvel Studios make to theme park rides. Gervais joked about Scorsese's height: "Although I don’t know what he’s doing hanging around at theme parks - he’s not big enough to go on the rides. He's tiny."
Bringing Sandra Bullock on stage to announce the final award, Gervais said, "Our next presenter starred in Netflix's 'Bird Box', a movie where people survive by acting like they don't see a thing. Sort of like working for Harvey Weinstein." After the crowd erupted in boos, Gervais quipped, "You did it! You did it! I didn't; you did it!"
Quote Of The Day is from Nobel Laureate economist Esther Duflo: "Your intuition can be so wrong. It is quite likely that your idea is not that great. You're going to learn it in the field and that learning is quite helpful because you are going to progressively learn, what is the real issue? If you have no humility to realize that, most of the time, our great ideas are not all that great."
Monday January 6, 2020
Shrunken Airflow? Skoda is an automobile manufacturer located in Czechoslovakia. It was founded in 1895. In the 1930s, Skoda introduced a new line of cars featuring a redesigned chassis backbone tube and all-around independent suspension. First used on the 1933 Skoda 420 Standard, the new chassis design became the basis for ... (more >>>)
Supply/Demand At Work: The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited holds its value better than any other vehicle - depreciation after 5 years is only 30%. The regular Jeep Wrangler depreciates only 32% after 5 years. The Toyota Tacoma and Tundra pickups rank 3rd and 4th respectively.
Cars that lose value fastest include the Maserati Quattroporte sedan - 72% depreciation after 5 years, BMW 7 Series (71%), Nissan Leaf electric (71%), BMW i3 electric (71%) and Acura RLX sedan (69%).
Sad … But True: Jack Baruth recently wrote, "When all the cars you can buy are basically identical, it turns into washing-machine shopping - you're only going to buy on price or reputation."
Remembering Bertie: In the 1950s, most kiddie television shows were local affairs. Howdy Doody was one exception; the show was broadcast live in New York and piped to several cities on the East Coast. Kinescopes were made available to selected cities elsewhere. 'The Buster Brown Show' was filmed and then distributed widely with Buster Brown shoes as the primary sponsor. The commercials were already baked into the show.
In Philadelphia, Bertie the Bunyip was the lead puppet character on a popular local children's television series, 'The Bertie The Bunyip Show', which ran from 1953 to 1966. Created and voiced by Australian Lee Dexter, Bertie was a bunyip (a mythological Australian creature - a cross between a bunny, a collie dog and a duck billed platypus).
Bertie's arch enemy was ... (more >>>)
Soggy Ending: It poured rain here on New Year's Eve but that didn't dampen our joy. We had much to celebrate on New Year's Eve. We stayed home and had cocktails and appetizers in the afternoon.
In the evening, I cooked an nine-ounce filet mignon on our outdoor grill - monitored by flashlight (technically, a Coast strap-on headlamp). In addition to the steak, my wife and I shared our last bottle of Sinclair Estates Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon - a 2015 vintage. Only 20 barrels of ths fine wine were produced in Walla Walla, WA. The winery closed down last Spring.
Staying home seems more popular than ever - it's what 48% of Americans do on New Year's Eve. Only 9% actually go out to a bar, restaurant or event. About 70% of Americans stayed up past midnight as they welcomed 2019.
Hope you had a good end-of-year celebration.
Notice The Difference? President Obama sent $1.7 billion in unmarked bills to Iran. President Trump bombed Iran's terrorist leader, General Qasem Soleimani, into 1.7 billion unmarked parts. Also reportedly transformed into vapor was one Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, leader of an Iraqi paramilitary group behind the attempted storming of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Good riddance.
Dave Burge tweeted, "Let's face it, there's a crazy maniac in the White House, so my best advice to Iran is airlift us $150 billion in unmarked bills in hopes it'll calm him down."
Holiday Retail Sales: Spending rose 3.4% during the 2019 holiday season, which is measured by retail sales starting November 1st. Online sales rose by 18.8%, while in-store sales were up only 1.2%.
Quote Of The Day is from Tom Lehrer: "If a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up."
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