A Blog About Cars ... And More
Monday March 30, 2020
AutoSketch: 1954 Ford F/X Atmos - Buck Rogers Comes To Chicago
Few concept cars encapsulated the jet age better than Ford's F/X Atmos, which was unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show in March, 1954.
Styled by Ford Studio designer John Middlestead, the Ford F/X Atmos show car was fiberglass 'pushmobile' with no powertrain, although Ford PR flacks suggested that it was the type of car which could be powered by nuclear energy. It was painted in patriotic red, pearlescent white and blue colors. F/X stood for Future Experimental; the vehicle was steered with hand grips, had a radar screen, and driver sat in the center. Two needle-like protrusions from the front fender pods were allegedly radio antennae for collision-free auto piloting.
Wheelbase was 105 inches; length was 221 inches - with enormous front and back overhangs - and the swoopy dream car was a mere ... (more >>>)
This Shouldn't Surprise Anyone: An article in Car and Driver quotes several automotive analysts who predict that vehicle sales will fall dramatically in 2020.
"RBC Capital is estimating that 2020 U.S. sales will ring in at around 13.5 million, down 20% from last year. J.D. Power is forecasting this year's sales to be between 14 and 16 million."
Whenever people are permitted to go to work again, they'll have late mortgage payments, past-due car loans, trashed 401(k) valuations and general household expenses to contend with. Buying a new vehicle will be low on their list of priorities.
Racing In Circles: The 104th Indianapolis 500 Race, usually held on Memorial Day weekend, has been postponed until Sunday, August 23rd, under the leadership of new owner Roger Penske.
Gone Until Next Year: The 2020 Detroit Auto Show, usually held at the former Cobo Hall, has been canceled. The venue will be converted to a field hospital during the coronavirus crisis.
Open For Business: While these dates are subject to change, it appears that Ford is looking to get pickups rolling off the assembly line again by April 6th, Toyota plans to resume production on April 20th, GM and Fiat-Chrysler may resume some production on April 14th.
Everyone realizes that America needs to get back to work, even if we can't open the entire country all at once. A recent Buick television ad suggested that prospects "buy online and we'll deliver your Buick right to your door."
It's A Wonder: James Lileks recently wrote about the Wonder Wheel, located at Coney Island.
No ordinary Ferris wheel, the "Wonder Wheel was designed by Charles Herman as an improvement on G.W.G. Ferris' giant wheel. Built for Herman J. Garms, Sr. between 1918 and 1920 by the Eccentric Ferris Wheel Company, it was opened on Memorial Day, 1920. "Herman originally called it the 'Dip-the-Dip', promising to combine in his new invention the thrill of a scenic railway, the fun of a Ferris wheel, and the excitement of the Chute-the-Chutes."
Over 35 million rides have been taken on the wheel since it first opened, including one by the Sherlocks. My parents took me on the Coney Island's Wonder Wheel when I was four or five years old. I still remember it because, at the time, I was wowed. We rode in one of the motion-capable cars that rolled on snaking tracks within the wheel itself. Cool! Thanks, Mom and Dad.
The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the Wonder Wheel as an official New York City landmark in 1989. It is still operational.
How Much Will The Stock Market Tank Due To The 2020 Coronavirus? A couple of months ago, Scott Grannis wrote, "According to Bloomberg, the current PE ratio of the S&P 500 (which is calculated using profits from ongoing operations) is a bit over 22. For the past 60 years it has averaged about 17."
The chart shown below "is based on a different calculation of corporate profits, since it uses corporate profits economy-wide, which is drawn from the National Income and Products Accounts. Nevertheless, it gives about the same answer: PE ratios are above-average, but still well below levels that later proved to be excessive valuations (e.g., 1961-62 and 2000). In other words, relative to the prevailing level of Treasury yields, current PE ratios look fairly attractive from a historical perspective."
Fast forward to now ... (more >>>)
Some Good Virus News: There's a lot of bad news being reported about the Wuhan coronavirus but there's also good news which is being underreported.
For instance, "reasonable estimates for the case fatality ratio in the general U.S. population vary from 0.05% to 1%. In other words, very much like the seasonal flu …. if the death rates from coronavirus are that low, the draconian measures to prevent its spread would be completely uncalled for."
"Meanwhile, data collected by the CDC show that when measured by date of onset rather than the day officially reported - the number of new covid-19 cases peaked on March 9 at 194, then dropped to 172 on March 10. It was 174 on March 11. It plunged to 122 on March 12, although the CDC cautions that there may be onsets that day that haven't been reported yet. In any case, all this was before the most draconian restrictions were put in place."
It's far too early to draw any conclusions, but it "certainly doesn't look like an out-of-control plague, as commonly depicted by the press." And, two studies have come out showing that fatality rates from the disease are far lower than earlier warnings.
Meanwhile, Scott Grannis wrote, "As emotions cool, even as covid-19 cases soar and deaths rise, we are beginning to see the light at the end of this tunnel. There are several drugs that are now available as therapeutics, thanks to Trump twisting the reluctant FDA's arm. Trump knows, and everyone does also, that maximum pressure needs to be applied to the Saudis and the Russians to encourage them to end their mutually-destructive crude oil price war. Even as Italian virus cases soar and mortality rates exceed what happened in China, the numbers in the rest of the world are becoming more realistic."
Keep your spirits up. Things will get better - we just don't know how soon.
State Of The State: At Evergreen Health Medical Center in Kirkland, WA, two miles from the shuttered Lifecare nursing home where 35 patient deaths were linked to the virus, officials say their rate of new covid-19 cases has remained steady for two weeks, leveling off at a trickle. "On some days, doctors here see just one new case and haven't seen more than four in a single day since mid-March. Few need admission to the intensive care unit, which is now half full, two weeks after overflow necessitated transfers to nearby hospitals.
"State authorities said there have been 2,580 positive cases and 132 deaths, and as testing in Washington has ramped up, the percentage of positive cases has remained low - holding at about 7%." What's happening in Washington state seems similar to what happened in South Korea, where the number of cases "flattened."
Clark County WA (far from Kirkland and in the Southwest part of the state) now has 82 cases of covid-19; there have been 6 deaths.
Geezer Joke: An older man bragged to his neighbor, "I just bought a new hearing aid. It cost me four thousand dollars but it's state of the art. It's perfect."
"Really," answered the neighbor, "What kind is it?"
"Twelve-thirty," the man replied.
Thought For Today: Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.
Thursday March 26, 2020
Nun Wagons: Last month, car blogger Jesse Bowers posted a photo of a group of nuns in a dark-colored 1964 Ford Country Sedan 9-passenger station wagon. A sister standing outside the Ford is being presented with the keys to the convent's new ride.
Catholic nuns riding in large station wagons were a common sight in Catholic-heavy East coast cities such as Philadelphia. The wagons were usually dark in color - brown, navy or black. Most wagons were ... (more >>>)
Change Is Coming: The New Neo wrote recently, "The COVID-19 crisis may have ended that many-decades-long globalization trend, which will have been proven to be a hollow idol liable to blow down in the first strong wind. Who is going to outsource the bulk of an entire vital industry (drugs) to China after this? My answer would be: no one.
The suddenness with which this has happened is also stunning. The globalists who excoriated Trump as a racist xenophobe might have to face the fact that events have been proving him right: we do need to make America great again. It's not academic, it's not just a campaign slogan. Its a reality staring us in the face."
I expect to see a lot of pharmaceutical manufacturing return to the U.S. and Canada over the next few years. I also think Ireland (and perhaps some other EU countries) will become a bigger player in the pharma biz.
Speaking of the China virus, there's an excellent but lengthy article with lots of tables and graphs written by Aaron Glinn and reposted by Tyler Durden at ZeroHedge. In short, the article says to be reasonably cautious (wash your hands frequently, avoid crowds, etc.) but not hysterical.
That said, the death rate from coronavirus is still on a steep upward curve. Let's hope that changes soon.
Blonde Joke: Bambi, a blonde in her fourth year as a college freshman, sat in her American History class. The professor asked her if she knew what Roe vs. Wade was about.
Bambi pondered the question; then said, "That was the decision George Washington had to make before he crossed the Delaware."
Another 'Green' Idea That Causes More Problems Than It Solves: Massachusetts and New Hampshire have banned the use of reusable bags at grocery stores to control virus spread. Reusable cloth bags are well-known as germ catchers. Other cities and states have also gone back to the old question: "Plastic or paper?"
Book Review: 'The Harder You Work, The Luckier You Get' by Joe Ricketts
Joe Ricketts founded what eventually became TD Ameritrade, the large online brokerage firm. It made for an interesting comparison with Charles Schwab's biography, since they were fierce competitors in the marketplace. Ricketts is two years older than me and started his company three years before mine but both of us experienced the big ... (more >>>)
Question Of The Day: If money doesn't grow on trees, how come banks have branches?
Tuesday March 24, 2020
Airing Out: Last Friday at 1:30 pm, it was a balmy 58 degrees, so I fired up my old 1939 Plymouth business coupe and went for a drive. The skies were bright blue with wispy clouds here and there. Traffic was fairly light, and the snow-covered mountains were clearly visible. I wanted to get an old car drive under my belt because rain is forecast for all of this week.
I also had the windows down and got lots of fresh air during my drive. I have a theory - an it's no crazier than any of the many jumbo-laced mumbo floating around cyberspace - that fresh air is the key to avoiding the coronavirus. I have yet to read anything about people dying in the many homeless encampments around the country.
Based on what we've been told, there should be: these urban flotsam live in dreadful squalor, have questionable personal cleanliness habits and many have immune system-compromising, untreated medical conditions. Yet there seems to be no epidemic in the various quotidian Trampvilles throughout the land. My theory is that the homeless spend a lot of time outside and get plenty of fresh air. They're not exposed to sophisticated HVAC systems which recirculate old air - and germs - in the name of energy efficiency. So … I'm doing what I can to get some fresh outside air every day.
My mom was a believer in the health benefits of fresh air. I remember her throwing open windows with alacrity in January to get fresh, freezing air into various rooms of our house. Sixty years later, I'm following her advice.
Fresh air - it can't hurt. And it might help. And, as Martha Stewart often said after a satisfying prison meal, "It's a good thing."
Must Be Referring To The 2005 Rendezvous SUV … Or The 1958 Roadmaster Limited: Last week, I watched a 'Futurama' rerun about giant space bees. Professor Farnsworth warned his crew, "These bees are larger than most Buicks. And twice as ugly."
Luxury Fail: Once a good-selling luxury flagship sedan, the Lexus LS has fallen on hard times. By 2019, Lexus was selling only around 100 LSs per month in the U.S. In 2010, over 10,000 LS sedans found buyers.
The problem? A combination of rising luxury SUV sales and awkward styling. Losing the V8 engine didn't help either.
Diesel Is The Esperanto Of Fuels: Some things look great on paper but, despite the overwhelming logic of arguments in their favor, never seem to become mainstream.
Consider Esperanto - the 'universal language' - developed in 1887 to "foster peace and international understanding."
Like diesel, Esperanto has its enthusiasts ... (more >>>)
Pill Mill: Jack Baruth wrote about China's control of the medical products and pharmaceutical industry.
"While you weren't looking, our painfully gentle, meek-looking, politically-correct, athleisure-clad American Illuminati moved the entire American pharmaceutical industry to China lock, stock, and the proverbial barrel of penicillin. They did this because Thomas Friedman's book told them that the world was flat and that “China, in many ways, is closer to us than Mexico.” It never in a million years occurred to them that they were putting significant power into the hands of people who consider American "thought leaders" mere dung flies to be swatted away or cultivated in manure, depending on the mood of the moment. Our Eloi are charmingly naive that way; they're like the eight-year-old child who thinks he's found a new way to cheat at Monopoly, not realizing that the adults around the table can predict his every move before it happens. Raised to operate in quarterly timeframes, they can't imagine the thought processes of men (and it's men, not womyn or furries or whatever) who might knowingly lose money on factories and industrial production for decades in a row in order to have the whip hand when it matters most."
Through their state media, China reminded the United States that ... (more >>>)
Hope You Have A Big, Juicy One: Today is National Cheesesteak Day:
Child-Rearing Advice: A new federal law banning more than minute levels of lead in most products intended for children 12 or younger - and a federal agency's interpretation of the law - prompted at least two libraries last month to pull children's books printed before 1986 from their shelves. Lead was present in printer's ink until a growing body of regulations banned it in 1986.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has interpreted the law to include books but has neither concluded that older books could be hazardous to children nor made any recommendations to libraries about quarantining such tomes.
I'd just scream at the top of my lungs, "Don't lick the f**king books, you little bastards! Do it again and I'll be taking my belt off!" That should stop it.
Quote Of The Day is from Robert Sawyer: "Learning to ignore things is one of the great paths to inner peace."
Friday March 20, 2020
2020 Consumer Reports Annual Auto Issue: Consumers Union began as a socialist organization in the 1930s and was once declared a subversive organization by the House Un-American Activities Committee. They still come off as a bunch of anti-capitalist lefties sometimes but Consumer Reports magazine remains the most comprehensive and believable of vehicle reliability surveys. This year's issue seemed to offer fewer data and more opinion than in prior years.
CR's database comes from vehicles owned by subscribers who fill out Consumer Reports' annual survey. Cars which are awarded the coveted Top Picks or Buy Recommendation now only need to score 'average' in reliability. This was not always the case.
Here are some interesting tidbits from CR's April Annual Auto Issue ... (more >>>)
"It Looks Like The Car Darth Vader Drove To High School." Wow! This old Nazi minesweeper tank really does.
Grim Forecast: ALG, a subsidiary of TrueCar, updated its 2020 new vehicle sales forecast, calling for a major downshift in car sales in what it described as the longer-term economic slowdown as the economic wreckage from the COVID-19 hits home.
"The forecast calls for a 14.2% decline in new vehicle sales, down 2.4 million units from ALG’s initial 2020 forecast and down 14.9% from 2019 sales to account for the quickly evolving coronavirus pandemic and the latest economic outlook."
J.D. Power is even more pessimistic, predicting that March vehicle sales may drop as much as 41%.
The coronavirus will have impacts on both vehicle inventory availability and consumer confidence, affecting supply and demand and will have immediate short term impacts due to reduced income and reduced commerce in general.
In related news, U.S. retail sales fell 0.5% in February - the biggest drop since 2018.
General Motors, Ford, Fiat-Chrylser and Honda have shut down all their North American plants. Nissan has suspended U.S. production. Hyundai Motor America has ceased production at its Montgomery, Alabama assembly plant after a worker tested positive for coronavirus. GM has suspended all new orders for the 2020 Corvette. Tesla will idle its auto assembly plant in Fremont, California on March 23rd as well as its Buffalo, New York solar facility.
In Europe, Daimler, Toyota, BMW, Porsche and Rolls-Royce have temporarily closed their production lines. And the 24 Hours du Le Mans has been delayed until September. Monaco cancelled its showcase Formula One Grand Prix, the sport's most famous, glamorous and watchable race.
Italy's China Problem: I was surprised to learn that there are Chinese sweatshops in Northern Italy.
Many companies are using inexpensive immigrant labor to manufacture handbags and other leather goods that bear the coveted "Made in Italy" label, according to a detailed article by D. T. Max in The New Yorker magazine. Consider the Northern Italian town of Prato: "More than 10% of Prato's two hundred thousand legal residents are Chinese. According to Francesco Nannucci, the head of the police's investigative unit in Prato, the city is also home to some ten thousand Chinese people who are there illegally. Prato is believed to have the second-largest Chinese population of any European city, after Paris, and it has the highest proportion of immigrants in Italy, including a large North African population." Many of the Chinese textile and leather bag workers are paid by the piece. "In the Prato area, some six thousand businesses are registered to Chinese citizens and the fashion companies require these Chinese-owned subcontractors to sign confidentiality agreements." That makes specific information hard to come by.
Italy's luxury-fashion industry has long struggled to ... (more >>>)
Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: On Wednesday, I got my hair cut. I got one of the last ones because Washington state has mandated the closure of all hair salons and barber shops. My hair guy was shuttering his salon at the close of business Wednesday until the state lets him open his business again. This is just one example of the economic upheaval caused by the Wuhan virus.
The Vancouver Mall has closed until further notice. Nordstrom, Macy's and other retailers have closed up shop as well.
A fourth person in Clark County has contracted the Wuhan Flu. Three Clark County patients have now died from it. Clark County WA has a population of about 485,000.
I Wonder If They're Going To Quarantine Him By Putting Him In A Can? Prince Albert of Monaco has tested positive for coronavirus. The 62 year-old is the first known head of state to be infected with the virus. The palace said Albert's health "does not inspire any concern", adding he was continuing to work from his private apartments at present.
"Do you have Prince Albert in a can?" And: "Is your refrigerator running?"
First Dog: He never told me his birth date but Winky was born 72 years ago this month. Yes, he did wink at people. Winky died of a heart attack in the summer of 1957. I hope his little dog-soul is romping around happily somewhere.
Don't forget - March 23rd is National Puppy Day. God bless all puppies and dogs.
Taking Out The Trash: A wise observation was offered by Ol' Remus: "You gotta love the news articles where school people say property and sales taxes must be increased to avoid painful cuts in education. Education is an abstraction, pretty much immune to pain. In real life the cuts would pain staff and supervisors and hangers-on like Second Assistants For Multicultural Services ... The cuts aren't painful enough until we see management carrying out the trash. Personally. Now that would be an education."
Bad Pun of the Day: An X-ray specialist married one of his patients. Everyone wondered what he saw in her.
Wednesday March 18, 2020
Is This The Next Batmobile? On the freeway, I spotted a '60s-era black Checker eight-door Aerobus with a giant (six-foot tall) aluminum fin sticking up out of the center of the roof!
Checker used to call its Aerobus "The Fleet-Proven Station Wagon 'Limo' That's Built-To-Last!" I guess this one did.
No Supercar For You: Lamborghini has closed its Sant’Agata Plant to help contain Covid-19. The plant will remain closed until at least March 25th.
"This measure is an act of social responsibility and high sensibility towards our people," said Lamborghini chairman Stefano Domenicali. "We continue to monitor the situation in order to react rapidly and with the right flexibility, in collaboration with our people and in order to restart with energy in the right moment."
Northern Italy, where Lamborghini is based, is currently the centre of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe. Italy has the highest number of confirmed cases in the world outside of China.
German Auto Woes: German new-car sales fell 11% to 239,943 in February as private customers stayed away from showrooms. Registrations from private buyers dropped 16% while sales to business customers were down 8%.
Sales of Tesla sales fell 37%. The electric-car maker had been gaining volume last year following the launch of the Model 3. "Other brands that saw steep drops included Smart, which fell 81% after the brand became electric-only and dropped its gasoline and diesel cars." Honda sales fell 39%, Opel dropped 21%, Audi decreased 20% and VW declined by 11%.
Mercedes-Benz registrations fell 3% and BMW sales were down 1%.
On the other side of the world, Jaguar Land Rover was hit with an 85% sales slump in China due to the coronavirus.
Postponed: The 2020 New York Auto Show, usually geld in April, has been postponed until August.
But you can still enjoy my pictures from the show - the 1966 one - here.
Nice Ride: Since all the schools are closed, there are no school buses on the road. Therefore, I can take my old car rides at any non-rush hour time of day. Monday was sunny and, by 1:30 pm, the temperature was 55 degrees, so I fired up my 1939 Plymouth business coupe and went for a drive. The skies were blue and cloudless and the traffic was fairly light.
The Cascades are still white with snow as is Mt. St. Helens, but everything is in bloom - a nice scenic mix. I had an enjoyable drive, with the dual Glasspacks burblin' and the Cruisin' 1957 Joe Niagara Show blasting forth from the speakers.
Life is good.
Auto Shutdowns: Volkswagen, the world's largest carmaker, said it is preparing to shut down its factories as a way to curb the spread of the coronavirus and warned that 2020 will be a very difficult year.
"Given the present significant deterioration in the sales situation and the heightened uncertainty regarding parts supplies to our plants, production is to be suspended in the near future at factories operated by Group brands," Chief Executive Herbert Diess said.
Production will be halted at Spanish plants, in Setubal in Portugal, Bratislava in Slovakia and at the Lamborghini and Ducati plants in Italy before the end of this week. Most of the other German and European plants will begin preparing to suspend production, probably for two to three weeks.
Additionally, French carmaker Renault is halting operations in Spain following the declaration of a state of emergency there in light of the coronavirus crisis. And Fiat-Chrysler (FCA) has resumed limited production at its Atessa facility in Italy, the automaker's only open assembly plant, having halted operations at most of its European factories. Ford, Toyota and PSA have also closed most of their European factories.
In the Chinese coastal province of Jiangsu, where supply chains have been shattered by the coronavirus outbreak, one auto supplier has already shifted production of parts for Mazda to central Mexico's Guanajuato State.
Who Knew? Buck-buck, which I played in grade school, was called buffalo heap, Johnny-on-the-pony and monkey pile in other regions of the U.S.
Book Review: With All Due Respect: Defending America with Grit and Grace' by Nikki R. Haley
This is no gossipy, tell-all book. Rather, it is about the author's journey from Governor of South Caroline through her time as United States Ambassador to the United Nations from 2017 through 2019. While Haley has often been critical of Donald Trump, she ... (more >>>)
It's A Plastic World Now: Only a few weeks ago, plastic was the whipping boy for all the greenies. Suddenly, the environmental wackos have become as quiet as the songbirds in Rachel Carson's 'Silent Spring'. Could it be because our polymer friends are playing a major role in containing the coronavirus?
Most of those hazmat suits you see on television are made from Tyvek, a flashspun high-density polyethylene plastic fiber. Some suits are made from Teflon (polytetrafluoroethylene plastic) or PVC (polyvinyl chloride plastic). Booties are made from polypropylene, a widely-used thermoplastic polymer. Surgical face masks are also made with non-woven polypropylene fabric. Face shields are typically made from Uvex (cellulose acetate butyrate plastic, which dates from the 1930s) or Lexan (a polycarbonate thermoplastic).
No one's complaining about plastic straws anymore. And that obnoxious ... (more >>>)
Everybody Squish Together And Breathe Deeply: Dave Burge made this comment on the spreading-everywhere, we're-all-gonna-die Wuhan Virus, "By the way, great call on that 20-year campaign to promote high-density urban living and public transportation, smart people."
I'll add: Yeah. Thanks urban planners for making all those multi-story
Coronavirus Quote Of The Year is from Greta Occasio-Nolte: "How does mass transportation, reusable grocery bags, pushing people into urban areas, open borders, and outsourcing our industry overseas sound now?"
Thought For Today: If you help someone when they're in trouble - they will remember you when they're in trouble again.
Monday March 16, 2020
Cadillac Woman: 1950s cultural icon Marilyn Monroe began as a pin-up girl and soon got acting parts in movies, often playing comedic blonde bombshells. Her breakout films, 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes' and 'How To Marry A Millionaire', were both released in 1953. The money from these films allowed her to purchase her "little whim," a black 1954 Cadillac Series 62 convertible. Second husband Joe DiMaggio gave her a Cadillac Eldorado during their brief marriage (1954-55).
Most of Marilyn's cars were black or white. She owned a Land Rover Series I which she used during her getaways to the ... (more >>>)
Rare Sighting: Last Thursday at 1:15 pm, it was sunny with bright blue skies and puffy white Johnson & Johnson cotton ball clouds here and there, so I fired up my 1939 Plymouth coupe and went for a drive along the back roads of unincorporated Battle Ground.. It was a little chilly (48 degrees) but traffic was light and I had spectacular views of snow-covered mountains - Mt. St. Helens to the north and the Cascades to the east.
I had a very pleasant drive. The Plymouth ran great. (I'm glad I went out on Thursday; it snowed Friday. And Saturday.)
During my travels, I actually saw another old car - a 1970s-era Volkswagen Thing. It looked to be in great shape and had gleaming white paint. I can't recall ever seeing a white Thing before - I think that 80% of production was bright orange.
VW Things weren't very popular in the U.S. and were only imported for a couple of years. And I haven't seen one of these faux-military VWs in a very long time. In 'The Simpsons', Homer's in-laws, Patty and Selma, drive a Volkswagen Thing.
Transit Coronavirus Follies: Liberal idiot and former presidential candidate Jay Inslee, who remains the governor of Washington, has banned all gatherings of 50 people or more. Except on its light rail transit cars, otherwise known as petri dishes on wheels.
Randal O'Toole noted, "Seattle's Sound Transit's trains presumably sometimes carry more than 250 people at a time, but Governor Inslee has exempted them from the 250 limit (of course; transit gets exemptions from all the rules everyone else has to follow). The agency is firmly responding to the crisis by "putting posters on vehicles reminding everyone to follow critical health guidelines." That'll stop the epidemic in its tracks!"
Meanwhile, Denver's mass transit system "says it is "wiping down its handrails" once a day. That's reassuring, so long as each bus and rail vehicle only carries one passenger a day."
O'Toole concluded, "It appears that the safest way to travel, at least for now, is to drive alone in your own vehicle, but the transit agencies and their supporters are still floating down a river in Egypt." Which would be OK if it were a river of Purell.
Skin In The Game: I still think that the Emoluments Clause involves hand lotion.
Karma's A Bitch: An Islamic scholar who called Wuhan Virus "God's Punishment" got infected.
"Shi’ite Iraqi Islamic scholar Hadi Al-Modarresi thought that the Wuhan Virus was divine and a tool by which God was smiting his enemies. He thought he would sit back as all of his beliefs were proven right as the virus swept across the lands of heathens."
Obsolete Skills - A Primer For Dinosaurs: Like me. Here are some skills which are no longer necessary for most people in the 21st Century. Ones that appealed to me included:
Professional Victims, Inc.: 'Period Activists' (Period Activists!!!???) say men should have to pay for toilet paper in public restrooms. Because tampons aren't free, you see. (No, I don't get the logic either.) Besides, I'm more of an Exclamation Point Activist myself.
I guess the Grievance Business is getting hard-up these days.
Seems Like Everything Is Shutting Down: There have been lots of closings around the world due to the Wuhan Coronavirus. Last Thursday, the Archdiocese of Seattle suspended the celebration of all public Masses. This affects parishes in Vancouver, WA as well.
"This includes daily and Sunday Masses. The Archbishop has given temporary dispensation from the Sunday Mass obligation until the coronavirus danger lessens and Masses are reinstated." No telling when that will be.
Washington governor Jay Inslee ordered all bars, restaurants, entertainment and recreation facilities in the state to temporarily close in order to fight the spread of COVID-19. How long the closures will last has yet to be determined. The governor also revised his ban on events to prohibit gatherings of 50 or more people. Previously, the size limit was more than 250. He didn't say anything about the state's many marijuana stores. Or homeless encampments.
In addition, the regional library system is closed, all public schools in the county are closed for six weeks. As of Saturday, there are 3 coronavirus cases in Clark County, WA. Two are nursing home patients. In the state, there are 642 cases and 42 dead. Washington has the highest number of cases and deaths of any state in the country. Most of the deaths are in and around Kirkland, a suburb east of Seattle in King County. Twenty-nine of the fatalities have been linked to the Life Care Center of Kirkland nursing home.
Coincidence Or What? Rorate Caeli, a traditional Catholic site and no fan of the current pope, observed, "It's very appropriate that we are celebrating the 7th anniversary of the election of Francis with all churches in Italy closed."
Thought For Today: Many people are alive only because it's illegal to shoot them.
Thursday March 12, 2020
What The World Needs Now ... is the device advertised in the October '57 issue of Road & Track:
In an era of still-expensive gas (even though the price of oil has crashed), we could all use one. Do they make these for other cars too? How about Lexus? Or Toyota? (permalink)
Anyone Remember … the customized Manx dune buggy used by Steve McQueen in 'The Thomas Crown Affair'? It has been fully restored and sold recently for $456,000 at Bonhams' Amelia Island Auction.
"The Meyers Manx was a kit car, a fiberglass body meant to be used with a shortened VW Beetle chassis and engine. But this particular model was customized at the behest of McQueen for the film, and originally featured a 2.7-litre flat-six from a Chevrolet Corvair, along with recessed headlights and a quilted cabin. Oh, and two levers to brake either the left or right rear tires for trick driving." The film was released in 1968 and featured a number of cool vehicles, including the reddish-orange dune buggy.
Zombie ELR: Cadillac plans to offer a hand-built, all-electric flagship sedan model (yet to be seen but already named: Celestiq), to be offered in very limited quantities ("hundreds per year") at a price well into six figures. It will be powered by Ultium, a new battery that could double the range of its electric vehicles. Ultium … sounds a little sci-fi, kinda like Unobtainium, no?
Anybody remember the Cadillac's last electric car, the ELR plug-in hybrid? I think it sold in very limited quantities too … because no one wanted one. Originally priced at $76,000, Cadillac only sold 1,024 ELRs in 2015, down 22% from 2014's totals.
Show-Stopping Virus: April's New York Auto Show has been scrubbed due to the Wuhan Coronavirus.
"Originally slated to kick off with a series of debuts on April 8th and 9th, the Javits Center will now host the event sometime in August." The Geneva Auto Show was cancelled earlier this month due to the virus.
Told You So: Thirty-five years ago, I proclaimed that the whole Just-In-Time idea was a bunch of bullshit. Our company's bankers berated us because we usually had 65-70 days of inventory, but we got lots of extra business because we could ship orders immediately and our competitors couldn't. As a small business, we found that our suppliers often lied to us about delivery times, so we carried extra raw material and component inventory to more than cover our needs.
To wit: "As its ready-made display and store fixture line also grew, Discovery Plastics eventually produced over 525 types of acrylic fixtures (in stock for immediate shipment) published in its annual printed catalog. Sales went national as Discovery sold its products through over 200 store-fixturing distributors across America."
Sometimes it pays to be a bit of a hoarder.
With the Wuhan Coronavirus disruption, large businesses who long advocated 'Just-In-Time' are finding that the chickens are coming home to roost.
Past Procrastination: Charlie Kirk reminded all Trump critics that "it took Barack Obama until October of 2009 to declare Swine Flu a National Health Emergency. It began in April of '09 but Obama waited until 20,000 people in the US had been hospitalized & 1,000+ had died.
Where was the media hysteria then?"
Book Review: 'Catch And Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators' by Ronan Farrow
This book is about the author's attempts to investigate Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein's sexual crimes, his troubles at NBC and sexual harassment issues with 'Today' star Matt Lauer and others. Unfortunately, there's too much about Ronan Farrow in this book.
It is too ... (more >>>)
The Truth About Bed & Breakfast Establishments: Some of my worst lodging experiences have been with B&Bs. I'm sure there are some good ones but too many are operated by amateur ''hobbyists" who are doing it for "fun."
I won't stay at such places for the same reason that I wouldn't choose a hobbyist brain surgeon having "fun" with a homemade MRI made from parts scrounged from a '47 Chevy Fleetline sedan and a '52 Muntz Radiation King television with the big 11-inch screen. And offering budget trepanations using a Makita and a modified spade bit.
I want a place run by flinty-eyed, money-grubbing professionals with a bar and an ice machine. (The prior sentence refers to lodging, not neurosurgery ... although, I suppose such characteristics would not necessarily be a bad thing if facing a craniotomy.) (permalink)
Quote Of The Day is from Tom McMahon: "How come being physically active is good, but being a busybody is bad?"
Tuesday March 10, 2020
February Vehicle Sales: Seasonally Adjusted Annual Sales (SAAR) of light vehicles was estimated to be 16.83 million in February 2020, down 0.5% from the revised January sales rate, and up 1.9% from February 2019.
Hyundai, Kia, Subaru, Honda, Mazda and Mitsubishi all reported sizeable gains in February as sales of utility vehicles continued to drive the market. Several automakers such as General Motors, Ford Motor Co., Fiat Chrysler, Toyota, Volkswagen and Nissan no longer report monthly sales totals.
"Low interest rates on vehicle auto loans and mild winter weather thus far are contributing to a healthy sales month," said Nick Woolard, Director of OEM and Affinity Partner Analytics at TrueCar. "We continue to see growth driven by new products, especially in the utility and crossover segments."
Analysts from Cox Automotive, however, cautioned that future sales reports could contain some unwelcome surprises: "While some automakers announced their February auto sales today good numbers from Honda and Hyundai most did not. The reports dominating the auto business seem to be more about the wild cards impacting the overall economy," including concerns over Covid-19 and how it will affect sales as well as the automotive supply chain.
End Of The Road? While not well-known in the U.S., Bristol is a storied car brand in England. Now it appears that the marque may disappear for good.
"Documents sent to Companies House reveal the High Court of Justice decided in December that the firm, which has been in existence since 1945, should be wound up, with assets sold off to pay creditors in December. The documents state that nobody attended the session to represent or defend Bristol. … Bristol is based in Windlesham, Surrey and has a recently refurbished sales centre in Kensington, London. It revealed its first all-new model in decades, the £250,000 Bullet speedster, in 2016."
Free Drinks: For a few hours last week, residents of the northern Italian town of Castelvetro realized they could have their fizzy red Lambrusco wine not just from bottles - but also from their faucets and shower heads. A malfunction at a local winery caused 1,000 liters of ready-to-be-bottled wine to leak into the water pipes. The glitch lasted about three hours and impacted about 20 homes, said Giorgia Mezzacqui, deputy mayor of Castelvetro, located about 10 miles south of Modena - home of Ferrari.
Fabrizio Amorotti, commercial manager at Cantina Settecani, said the malfunction "was appreciated by many. Some clients in the areas called us to warn us about it, and to share they were bottling the wine!"
Castelvetro, in the heart of the Emilia-Romagna region, is normally a destination for food and wine enthusiasts from all over the world. Since the corona virus outbreak, 80% of tourism structures in the area have had cancellations.
Headline Of The Week ... so far is from Breaking Burgh: 'Starbucks To Pour Coffee Straight Down Your Throat To Halt Spread Of Coronavirus'.
From The Wiseacre Dictionary: Malcolm Berko once quipped: "I like to define "politics" as two words: "Poli" is a Greek word meaning a "large number," and "tics" are "bloodsucking parasites."
Bad Idea #3,674: Disneyland is having problems with the 50+ year-old 'It's a Small World' attraction. People have gotten heavier over the years and sometimes the boats get stuck under loads of fat passengers. "Employees ask larger passengers to disembark - and compensate them with coupons for free food."
Quote Of The Day is from Robert Orben: "Every day I get up and look through the Forbes list of the richest people in America. If I'm not there, I go to work."
Friday March 6, 2020
Happy Birthday Toyota Avalon: We picked up my wife's new car 15 years ago today. It now has just over 75,000 miles on the odometer and it runs and drives well. When washed, it still looks like new. The leather seats are in great shape and none of the plastic trim has faded or discolored.
We generally keep vehicles a long time - 8 to 12 years and/or 80-100,000 miles, typically. (Our record is 28 years and 156,000 miles on our '67 Volkswagen Beetle.) The Avalon remains the most reliable car we've ever owned. Based on the good behavior of this car combined with the low miles we're putting on it, I wouldn't be surprised to find it in our garage in 2040. On the other hand, I don't know if I'll be around in 2040.
Incidentally, I've owned my 1939 Plymouth for almost 26 years.
Fuel Up: At 11:30 am, the temperature was 56 degrees. Skies were see-sawing between partly cloudy and partly sunny. Sometimes it was sunglasses weather; sometimes it wasn't. I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe to gas up at the ethanol-free gas pumps.
There's only one station in Battle Ground that carries non-winter-mix premium grade fuel. At $4.50-or-so per gallon. It has newly-installed pumps that are difficult to work and as non-intuitive as the old ones. Nozzles that never shut off properly and spill pricey fuel all over the left rear fender. No wonder no one calls these places 'service stations' any more.
I hate patronizing the place; nevertheless, I showed up prepared with a bucket of slightly soapy water and a wash mitt to clean off the fender afterward. When I got home, I waxed the area around the filler pipe, just in case.
Traffic through town was lunch-time heavy but lightened up as I got out of town and took a back roads drive. Everything was in bloom from clumps of heather to a group of magnolia trees along my route. Spring is almost upon us.
Auto History Tidbit: FDR's fifth child, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr. once sold imported cars. In 1957, Mr. Roosevelt founded the Roosevelt Automobile Company, later Fiat Motors, Inc.
From 1960 to 1970, Roosevelt was the importer/distributor of Jaguar automobiles in the southeastern United States, until British Leyland bought him out.
He sold his distributorship, the Roosevelt Automobile Company, in 1970.
The Comeback Coot: William Katz said it best, noting that Super Tuesday "was the greatest comeback of any presidential candidate in modern history. A week ago Joe Biden's campaign seemed dead in the water, and Joe was denounced in many circles as a bumbling clown who couldn't get his sentences straight. Then came his spectacular victory over Bernie Sanders in the South Carolina primary, and voters did a quick rethink. Polls taken only five days ago in many states became obsolete.
Democrats looking for an alternative to the hard-left Bernardovich Sanders realized that Joe Biden had a pulse. Over just this last weekend his speeches became more vigorous and self-assured. He looked and acted as the man of the hour. And it worked. Biden took state after state, even capturing the bastion of the Democratic left, Elizabeth Warren's home state of Massachusetts. He won Minnesota, home of Ilhan Omar. As of this minute he is neck-and-neck with Sanders in Texas, which Sanders had been expected to win easily. Sanders will take the biggest prize, California, but the momentum is with Joe.
It's correctly pointed out that this is only one night in the campaign for the Democratic nomination, but it is a historic one. Maybe the far-left fringe of the Democratic Party can be defeated after all. Watch for March 17th, when both Florida and Ohio vote. Biden should take Florida easily, as Sanders has antagonized just about everyone in Florida. The fight will be over Ohio, a key political state in any presidential race. If Biden can capture Ohio, it may mean the nomination, or at least a contested convention, with Biden favored."
Former MTV V-Jay and current FoxBusiness host Kennedy predicted a month ago that Biden would be the nominee and that an infuriated Bernie - realizing that, at age 78, this is his last hurrah - would walk away from the Democratic Party and form a third party. Bernie has never been a Democrat; he is listed as an Independent. Kennedy predicted that the split-party would hand the election to Trump, who probably would have won it anyway. Time will tell.
Quote Of The Day is from Yogi Berra: "Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't come to yours."
Wednesday March 4, 2020
I Paid $90,000 And You're Only Giving Me One $%*&# Set Of Keys?!! UK-based Jaguar Land Rover said recently it was just two weeks from having to halt production at its car plants at Castle Bromwich, Halewood and Solihull as it runs out of parts. CEO Sir Ralph Speth said it had resorted to bringing vital parts from China in the holds of commercial flights and was currently only able to provide a single key fob to customers taking delivery of new vehicles.
Book Review: 'Formula One: The Champions - 70 Years Of Legendary F1 Drivers' by Maurice Hamilton
Please don't pass this book off as a slapped-together coffee table book about Formula 1 racing. At 10.5 x 12.5 inches, it may indeed be coffee table-sized but it is far more. Author Maurice Hamilton has provided biographies and accomplishments of 33 men who have attained F1 World Champion status. The bios, while brief, are well-written and provide the necessary details for each individual.
More importantly ... (more >>>)
Golden Sahara Update: I've added a photo of George Barris' Golden Sahara II to last year's Golden Sahara posting.
Thanks to Jesse Bowers at Just A Car Guy who posted this cool photo on his site.
Breaking Media News: Tom McMahon reported that The Urology Channel is now streaming.
The Stock Market And Politics: Steven Hayward wrote, "As the legendary investment guru Benjamin Graham argued, in the short run the market is a voting machine; in the long run, it is a weighing machine. This week the market voted for Bernie. I love it when good companies go on sale for 20% off! A bit sorry I gave up my VIX position last year though.
But the stock market is not the only thing showing newfound volatility: a series of polls in recent days report Joe Biden showing signs of life after all (and yes, I know how weird it sounds to have "Joe Biden" and "signs of life" in the same sentence). So maybe the race isn't over. I think the betting markets still have Bernie the decided favorite, but if there was ever the political equivalent of a VIX position, I'd be a big buyer right now. Meanwhile, in legal news, dumpsters have filed a class action lawsuit against the Democratic Party for setting too many dumpster fires."
Headline Of The Week … so far is from the satirical blog, Breaking Burgh: 'Pete Buttigieg Reveals He Quit Race To Form Boy Band'.
Black Protesters Parody Their Own Race, Enforce Stereotypes: At the University of Oklahoma, black protesters demanded that the University bring a Popeye's Chicken restaurant to campus.
What's next - a black frat house in the shape of a watermelon?
Bad Pun Of The Day: A cargo ship full of blue paint hit a larger cargo ship full of red paint. The entire crew was reportedly marooned. (hat tip: Joe Sherlock III)
Monday March 2, 2020
Bumpy Road: Recently, Via magazine published an article by Bradley Berman, titled 'The Road To Electric'. The author is an electric car early adapter and writes about BEVs for several publications.
In this article, he chronicled a trip from Northern California to the southern Oregon coast in an Audi E-Tron. Part road test, part travelogue and part electric car cheerleading, the article revealed a lot to me about the state of electric vehicles today. And I was unimpressed.
Berman began his odyssey by charging his Audi-supplied test vehicle overnight on his 240-volt home charger. The charger added about 25 miles of range per hour of charge. The E-Tron provided 204 miles of range per full charge. On the first day, the author used a phone app to find a charge station near a restaurant at lunchtime. Using a 50 kw charger, he was able to add 90-100 miles of range with a 30 minute charge. Occasionally on his travels, he'd encounter a more powerful 150 kilowatt charger, which could add 165-miles of range in 30 minutes.
As I read the article, all I could think of was ... (more >>>)
Mid-Engined Marvel: Paul Eisenstein of The Detroit Bureau drove the mid-engined C8 Corvette and was quite impressed, noting that "we had the opportunity to open things up. From a mere 30 mph we hit 120 much quicker than we could imagine, the car almost pleading with us to push it even further. Equally impressive were the brakes. The new Brembos can feel grabby, at first, but it doesn't take long to learn how to modulate them, as we learned during our second day with the 2020 Corvette, at the Spring Mountain track in Pahrump, an hour outside Sin City. We clocked lap after lap on the 2.8-mile North-South course and never experienced even the slightest sense of brake fade. But they were more than up to the task, allowing us to push deeper and deeper into the brake zones before diving into corners.
And here was where we truly learned to love the new Corvette. As we mentioned early on, sitting that far forward changes your perception of how the car steers. You feel it sooner, meaning a more direct connection between car and brain. Add the fact that, with the help of next-generation Michelin Pilot Sport tires, grip is cat-like. Steering, in turn, is absolutely precise, with weighting properly balanced for each of the different driving modes."
He concluded, "We've long heard Chevy promise to deliver a true world-beater Corvette. They've finally pulled it off. Its been a long wait, but Zora Arkus-Duntov would be proud."
The End: Sixty-two years after it was first introduced, the last Chevrolet Impala rolled off the line at Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant last week. The plant is being converted to build electric vehicles, including the new GMC Hummer.
General Motors introduced the production Impala in the 1958 model year as a name for Chevrolet's top of the line Bel Air hardtops and convertibles, featuring unique, symmetrical triple bullet taillights (the center one was a clear back-up light). Lesser models - Bel Air sedans, Biscyane and Delray - had double or single bullet taillights. In 1958 only, the cars carried the awkward name Chevrolet Bel Air Impala.
Read more about the Impala here.
First Signs Of Spring: We've had a generally mild winter (no snow to speak of and moderate temperatures).
On Thursday, the weather was particularly nice with sunshine and blue cloudless skies, so - at 1:00 pm - I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and went for a drive in the relatively balmy (56 degree) weather. Traffic was light, trees are beginning to bud and I had great views for snow-covered Mt. St. Helens and the Cascades.
The car ran great. I took off from a stop sign, slowly at first, then I floored the gas pedal and watched the Plymouth's prow nose lift and listened to the roar of the 350 Chevy V8 and the loud wail of the Glasspacks. Life is good.
The rain returned Friday afternoon and has continued into this week.
Uh-Oh: The 2020 Geneva Motor Show is over before it began as Swiss government banned events with more than 1,000 people until March 15 as it seeks to control spread of the novel coronavirus Covid-19. Last year, the show brought in over $200M in revenue, so cancelling the event is a big deal for the show's underwriters. And for the manufacturers who have already set up booths.
The show was still on track, according to the organizers, a few days ago with the construction of the stands nearly complete and the final press release schedule set. "According to the organizers, roughly 220 exhibitors attend the annual car show, along with 10,000 journalists and 660,000 visitors. The show is the second large event called off in Europe. The Mobile World Congress in Barcelona was cancelled last week due to concerns about the virus."
Many automakers will substitute digital debuts on social media to introduce new models and concept cars.
Reducing The Length Of The Supply Chain: In an effort to build more things where they're needed, Subaru of Indiana Automotive will spend $158 million expanding its Lafayette plant, creating 350 jobs. Construction begins this summer. One component is the CVT transmission currently utilized in most Subies.
At TTAC, Matthew Guy wrote, "Bringing parts and transmissions to the U.S. is part of Subaru's effort to silence the gripes about supply issues and quality that plagued the automaker over the past couple of years. Given its relatively small production footprint and growing North American demand, the automaker quickly sells most of the vehicles it makes. There isn't much room for error when problems crop up in the supply chain."
In light of corona virus-related supply problems, expect to see other auto companies hedge their bets by manufacturing or sourcing more components stateside.
No Wonder They Call Them Moody: Moody's Investor Service has revised its earlier vehicle sales estimate of a 0.9% global drop to 2.5%, and even that figure is based on an assumption that the spread of the coronavirus outbreak can be halted before the end of the first quarter.
"Should world events play out the way Moody's anticipates, 2020 will see sales fall 2.9% in China, 4% in Western Europe, and 1.2% in the United States."
The truth is that nobody knows. If Covid-19 blows over like Swine Flu, Zika virus, Ebola or any number of health scares of the past 60 years, the stock market, vehicle sales, and GDP will rebound because the U.S. economy has been strong and we have the medical technology to develop treatments and the 21st Century infrastructure to minimize spread. (Except in filthy places such as homeless camps. Avoid dirty tramps at all costs.)
America has survived despite the 1957-58 Asian flu (I had it in high school; I missed a week of classes and was treated at home), the 1968 Hong Kong flu, 1972's London Flu which spread to the U.S. (my wife and I both got that one), the variant of the Creutzfeld-Jakob disease (vCJD), a brain disease which spread worldwide between 1996 and 2001, the SARS coronavirus outbreak of the early 20th Century, the 2009 Swine Flu epidemic and the 2015-16 Zika virus.
In 2009, then vice-president Joe Biden spread panic about Swine Flu, exhorting Americans not to take flights or ride subways. Now, in 2020, Democrats are again sowing panic in hope of reaping political gain.
In summary, Covid-19 is an unpleasant respiratory illness, but it is not an organ-destroying horror like Ebola. The mortality rate from the current disease ranges from 0.5 to 2%, and is significantly lower than the mortality rate from the 2002 SARS outbreak (9.5%) and much lower than the 2012 SARS outbreak (34.4%).
"The same people who want you to panic about coronavirus want you to panic about everything. The news business thrives on chaos."
Stay calm, wash your hands frequently, use Purell liberally when needed and avoid crowds.
Geezer Joke: A little old lady was running up and down the halls in a nursing home. As she walked, she would flip up the hem of her nightgown and yell: "Supersex." She walked up to an elderly man in a wheelchair. Flipping her gown at him, she said, "Supersex."
He sat silently for a moment or two and finally answered, "I'll take the soup."
Happy Tune: Whenever I get the blues, I just play 'Flatfoot Floogie' by Slim and Slam, a 1938 cheery little ditty with a vibraphone solo. You can't be sad when someone's playing the happiest musical instrument ever made.
That's why they never have vibraphones or xylophones at funerals. (Well, maybe they had one at Lionel Hampton's service in 2002. His funeral procession began at The Cotton Club in Harlem.) Organ: yes, cello: certainly, harp: ok for the right somber musical selection. But, you just can't mourn when someone's bangin' merrily on a row 'o bones.
Which is ironic because, whenever there's a cartoon featuring dancing skeletons, there's always vibraphone music on the audio track.
Question Of The Day: What happens if you get scared half to death, twice?
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