A Blog About Cars ... And More
Thursday April 27, 2017
AutoSketch: 1949 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon - A Great Big Luxo-Woodie
This behemoth weighed 4500 pounds; Buick ads hyped "honest heft that levels the miles with majestic smoothness." You could tell that it was a Roadmaster by the four portholes (officially name: VentiPorts) along the side. Lesser Buick models only got 3 holes.
The '49s were the first all-new postwar design from Buick and were the first models to feature ... (more >>>)
Why I Support Israel: Sometimes we sleep on sheets made in Israel. Made from Egyptian cotton. Purchased at Costco. It's interesting that Israel has always had a manufacturing economy while most of the Middle East makes almost nothing; they let foreigners pump their oil (for a price) and they do a little agriculture - figs, cotton and opium, I think.
In contrast, Israel has an economy based on something real. And entrepreneurial. And exportable. Good for them.
Hope You Enjoyed A Chewy One Yesterday: National Philly Soft Pretzel Day is celebrated on April 26th of each year.
Soft pretzels are a Philadelphia institution and pretzel carts were a familiar sight when I was growing up. In Philly, an estimated 300,000 soft pretzels are consumed daily.
Elaine Dann Goldstein has provided a history ... (more >>>)
Make Anthracite Great Again: According to Jeff Flock at FoxBusiness, in the first two months of 2017, China purchased 600 million pounds of coal from the U.S. The Obama Administration had refused to sell to China because it deemed coal to be "a dirty source of energy." China had been buying its coal from North Korea.
Book Review: 'JFK And The Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters' by James W. Douglass
This is a dreadful book - a 565-page bore-fest. The author would have readers believe that John F. Kennedy was killed by a Grand Conspiracy carried out by military and intelligence agencies after JFK became a peace-loving dove. And a better Catholic. (Ask Marilyn Monroe, Angie Dickinson and Judith Campbell Exner and various White House interns and staffers about that 'better Catholic' stuff.)
The author is a ... (more >>>)
Schick's Law: "There is no problem a good miracle can't solve."
Tuesday April 25, 2017
Sunshine And Good Results: Last week, I visited the Oncology Center for a blood test and CT scan. All seems to be well, at this time. The CT scan shows that the suspect area remains unchanged in size - an indicator that the cancer is dormant or, possibly, hopefully, dead.
The blood test measures cancer markers - carcinoembryonic antigen - in the blood. Mine is now 1.4, which remains within normal range (0-2.5 µg/L according to Wikipedia; 0-5.0 µg/L according to my oncologist).
I returned home at 11:20 am; the sun was shining brightly and the temperature was a mild 55 degrees. It eventually reached 68 in the afternoon. Given that it had rained all week and more rain was forecast for the foreseeable future, I decided to take a celebratory ride in my '39 Plymouth coupe.
I drove along the lightly-traveled back roads of North Clark County, admiring the Spring greenery and realizing it's a good time to be alive. Mt. St. Helens remains covered in snow as do the Eastern Cascade foothills.
On the return trip, I passed a black '40 Ford coupe headed in the other direction. It was quite shiny with gleaming chrome. It's beginning to look like old car weather around these parts. (permalink)
Company Iron: Recently, The Old Motor published an article about salesmen's cars, including a photo of a specially-outfitted 1950 Chevy salesman's station wagon with those exterior simulated woodgrain panels.
Inside was a working lathe and milling machine from South Bend Lathe Co. The salesman could demonstrate the features of the machinery right at the customer's doorstep.
In the 1949 play, 'Death of a Salesman', Willy Loman carted his "two large sample cases" around in his car's trunk, probably that of a business coupe.
Business coupes with their cavernous trunks - like my 1939 Plymouth - were popular with traveling salesmen or field service people. When I first began my working career, every salesperson had a large company-issued vehicle (full-size cars in the mid-1960s) with a big trunk to hold samples and information.
Product literature, service bulletins, tech manuals and the like were carried by and given out by salesmen as needed - on the spot. None of this "I'll call the factory (or home office) and ask them to mail you something" nonsense. While waiting for the promised information to arrive, some other, better-prepared competitor's salesman might swoop in, literature in hand, and close the deal.
In the early days of my ... (more >>>)
Not So Happy Days: Erin Moran, the once-cute teenage actress who played Joanie Cunningham (the feisty younger sister of Ron Howard's Richie) in 'Happy Days' and 'Joanie Loves Chachi' has died of throat cancer at age 56.
According to TMZ, "Erin had a tough time after her 'Happy Days' stardom ... a combination of drinking and bizarre behavior that eventually landed her in a trailer park in Indiana. She had run out of money and was reportedly kicked out of the mobile home she shared with husband Steve Fleischmann." Sad end. RIP.
Bad Restaurant Review Of The Year: And, remember, the year is still young.
Food critic for the UK's The Guardian, Jay Rayner eviscerated the overpriced dreck served at Le Cinq in the Four Seasons Hôtel George V, Paris in a biting - no pun intended - review.
"There is only one thing worse than being served a terrible meal: being served a terrible meal by earnest waiters who have no idea just how awful the things they are doing to you are." That's the case at this Michelin three-star restaurant.
Decor? "The dining room, deep in the hotel, is a broad space of high ceilings and coving, with thick carpets to muffle the screams. It is decorated in various shades of taupe, biscuit and fuck you. There's a little gilt here and there, to remind us that this is a room designed for people for whom guilt is unfamiliar. It shouts money much as football fans shout at the ref. There's a stool for the lady's handbag. Well, of course there is."
Starters and mains are priced at $75-150. "The canapé we are instructed to eat first is a transparent ball on a spoon. It looks like a Barbie-sized silicone breast implant, and is a "spherification", a gel globe using a technique perfected by Ferran Adrià at El Bulli about 20 years ago. This one pops in our mouth to release stale air with a tinge of ginger. My companion winces. "It's like eating a condom that's been left lying about in a dusty greengrocer's," she says. Spherifications of various kinds bursting, popping, deflating, always ill-advised turn up on many dishes. It's their trick, their shtick, their big idea. It's all they have."
Some dishes have the ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Robert A. Heinlein: "A committee is an animal with at least six legs, and no brain."
Friday April 21, 2017
Sinkholes: In an article titled 'No Matter How Far Wrong You've Gone, You Can Always Turn Around' about throwing good money after bad (especially on vehicles), Jack Baruth wrote, "The sunk cost effect is manifested in a greater tendency to continue an endeavor once an investment in money, effort, or time has been made … It is found that those who had incurred a sunk cost inflated their estimate of how likely a project was to succeed compared to the estimates of the same project by those who had not incurred a sunk cost … people will throw good money after bad … The sunk cost effect was not lessened by having taken prior courses in economics."
In college, I had a business professor who once asked the class, "If you're really thirsty and you keep putting money into a Coke machine and nothing comes out, when do you stop?" The correct answer - which made perfect sense to me at the time - was, "As soon as possible." I was surprised at the number of seemingly bright fellow students who felt that the machine would be more likely to "pay off" if they gave it more money. Some of these people probably went on to work at the U.S. State Department's North Korea desk during the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations.
Mr. Baruth went on to examples of those who sink money into old cars, hoping that by making pecuniary sacrifices the Car God would smile upon their old wreck and bless it with some sort of reliability amulet. Jack wrote of hopeful car sellers who "would arrive with thumb-thick binders of cost-no-object repairs done with brand-new factory parts to 15-year-old shitboxes with seats worn through to the springs."
When I read the article, I was thinking of business situations I encountered during my 13-year corporate career, when I was in my 20s and early 30s. I can't even count the number of times I'd recommend that a project be killed because it was the corporate equivalent of a clapped-out, rusted Studebaker, only to be told by management that well, we just couldn't do that because we've already spent five years and $6 million on this turkey and, if we killed this project, it would make so-and-so (a guilty party since promoted to some higher management position) look bad. And I would receive my marching orders which would either be to slowly and quietly wind it down or continue to shovel money at it. It was just one more gnat bite on the elephant hide of corporate lunacy.
I recall that I frequently offered the following parting shot at the end of such meetings: "This will not end well." It usually didn't.
Big Ticket Bus: A red and white 1961 Volkswagen 23-Window Microbus was sold for a record $291,500 at the Barrett-Jackson Palm Beach auction last week. VW buses are now 'in' and these high prices are making aging hippies stomp their smelly, Birkenstock-shod feet in protest.
Killing Bill O'Reilly: Unless you've been buried in a New Jersey landfill for the past couple of days or visiting with the Pope, you probably already know that Bill O'Reilly is out at Fox News. If you're a manufacturer of Factor Gear, you're screwed. As are Dennis Miller and Bernie Goldberg. Now O'Reilly's a Premium Member of the Dick Morris Club.
It's as if Fox doesn't understand the terms 'Number One Show' and 'Profit'.
Bill's time-slot will be filled by Tucker Carlson. 'The Five', which once meant five panelists on at 5:00 pm Eastern Time, has been moved to 9:00 pm Eastern. I wonder if the later time slot means Kimberly Guilfoyle can wear even sluttier clothes. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Maybe someday she'll take off one of her stiletto heels and stab Juan Williams or Bob Beckel with it. Or that wretched, insufferable airhead Dana Perino, whose voice is only slightly less shrill than Hillary Clinton's. Use that shoe, Kimberly - do the world a favor.
Fox should cancel 'The Five' and replace it with an hour of hot Fox Contributor chicks jumping naked on trampolines. Or on a very large pile of MyPillows. Ratings would be even higher than O'Reilly's. Come to think of it, they could have all the women who claim to have been harassed by Billy O. (or Roger Ailes) make guest appearances on 'The Trampoline Show'. I wouldn't mind seeing Andrea Tantaros doing some exciting jump-aerobics.
The question remains ... (more >>>)
Tomorrow Is Earth Day. I am fondly reminded of Gilda Radner's Emily Latella (on SNL) - who might have said, "What's all this I hear about 'greenhouse gas'? Can't people just hold it in until they go back outside?"
Out Of The
Commissioner Dick - a lesbian? Jeeeez, where are Bevis and Butthead when you need them? "Dick. Huh-huh, heh-heh." I would guess that, given her last name, in ... ummmm ... relationship terms, Cressida is the top police officer and Helen is ... ummmmm, indeed ... her underling.
Or, maybe this isn't real news, just a Monty Python sketch.
Today's Inspirational Thought: A person who smiles in the face of adversity ... probably has a scapegoat.
Wednesday April 19, 2017
What Part Of The Land Would You Like To Rove? Rodeo Drive? At TTAC, Matthew Guy reviewed the $73,000-plus 2017 Land Rover Discovery with a the 340-horsepower supercharged V6 engine.
Once a fairly simple machine, the latest Discovery is a complicated vehicle with lots of electronics, air-suspension and other tech features which will probably break sooner rather than later necessitating pricey repairs. My advice: get one on a short lease.
"I think Land Rover has a winner on its hands, as the new Discovery will appeal to new buyers on Wilshire Boulevard while continuing to placate the scattered purist who wants to ford through three feet of water on their way to the English countryside. Features like intelligent folding seats and a FitBit-esque wristband to supplement the key fob (yes, that's an option) may not matter to the rich Brummies who've had a Disco since 1989, but they will matter a great deal to the California set looking to keep up with the Kardashians."
When Food Goes Bad:
"What Are You - Some Kinda Doomsday Machine, Boy?" Actor Clifton James, best known for his portrayal of the buffoonish Sheriff J.W. Pepper in James Bond movies ('Live And Let Die, The Man With The Golden Gun'), has died at age 96 from complications of diabetes.
James was born in the Pacific Northwest and lived near Portland but was often called upon to play Southern characters. Talk about typecasting. RIP.
Book Review: Flags Of Our Fathers' by James Bradley
Son of one of the soldiers in the iconic Iwo Jima flag-raising photo, James Bradley relates the story of the battle, the flag raising and the aftermath. It makes for a fascinating and powerful tale as Bradley begins a quest for the real story of Iwo Jima and the many Marines who were killed or permanently damaged by the horror of the fight.
There are many extraordinary ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Billy Bob Thornton: "I don't have a fear of flying; I have a fear of crashing."
Monday April 17, 2017
Fifty-one years ago, I first attended the show, held at the New York Coliseum, and posted some cool period pictures and program advertisements here.
This year, the following vehicles caught my eye:
General Tso's Caddy: The plug-in hybrid version of the Cadillac CT6 flagship is made in China. It seems that Cadillac isn't helping to Make America Great Again.
Finally, Some Sun: It had been raining daily for the past 10 days or so. Saturday dawned with some genuine sunshine and I took advantage of the improved weather by taking an old car drive.
When I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe at 10:00 am, temperatures were still in the upper 40s, although it got to 60 degrees in the afternoon. It was partly cloudy and the mountains were obscured by puffy Johnson & Johnson cotton-ball clouds.
I had a fun drive along the lightly-traveled back roads of North Clark County. There was enough sun that I wore sunglasses and considered the good weather an early Easter gift.
Trump's Greatest Hits: Remember when candidate Donald Trump said, "we will bomb the shit out of ISIS"? Now we know what he meant. Last week, the U.S. dropped a massive 21,000-pound bomb in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province, creating one humongous crater. The area is full of tunnels and caves known to be used by ISIS.
This MOAB - Mother of all Bombs - explodes with a huge fireball that will suck all the oxygen out of a cave complex in milliseconds, turning evil jihadists into crispy critters. It is the largest non-nuclear bomb in the U.S. arsenal and has never before been used in combat. It's economical, too. Priced at $170,000 each, the MOAB is a mere rounding error in Defense Department money. Why, you can't even purchase an entry-level Bentley Continental for that.
If the MOAB was any cheaper, you could buy them at The Dollar Store. (Just think of what you could to that inconsiderate neighbor whose dog always shits on your lawn.)
Look out, Axis of Evil. There's a new sheriff in town.
Failure To Launch: North Korea put on quite a show Saturday, parading an impressive-looking array of nuclear missiles accompanied by the obligatory goose-stepping soldiers. As well as cheesy streamers and balloons. Looked like someone bought a big semi-trailer full of crap at Party City.
The press reported that "experts were stunned at the sheer number of new missiles on display during the parade - including, apparently, a new and previously unknown type of intercontinental ballistic missile." Yeah ... well, given that high-resolution images of other nations' weaponry are readily available, it would be no trouble for a Norky metalworking shop to fabricate impressive-looking dummy replicas, perhaps with a couple of bigger fins so they looked like something unique. Chrysler Corporation did the same thing with their automobiles back in the late 1950s.
The grand finale for the 'festivities' was supposed to be an impressive missile launch. Alas, the rocket in question blew up spectacularly just as it lifted off the launch pad. Pundits are wondering whether the U.S. or some other nation hacked the launch or jammed the signals to the missile. I think it would be pretty simple to do.
I've seen video of the North Korea's pride-n-joy control panels. They look like something from an early 1950s, low-budget sci-fi movie - gray painted metal boxes with large dials, 1948 Heathkit toggle switches and winking lights which looked suspiciously like parking lamp assemblies from a 1951 Nash Rambler. I wouldn't be surprised if they communicate with the missile controls using a 1934 Pilot Super-Wasp ham radio set. If one vacuum tube flickers, the missile explodes.
Whenever I experienced television problems in the 1960s, I'd go and test the vacuum tubes at a nearby Sun Ray Drug Co. in Philadelphia. Sun Ray had TV tube testers in every one of their stores. Perhaps Kim Jung-un has a cousin named Kim Sun-Ray ... (more >>>)
Welcome To Londinistan: The Gatestone Institute has reported on the striking rate of closures of churches in the United Kingdom's capital city, a trend mirrored elsewhere in Europe, and the blooming number of mosques that have been established in their stead. "London is more Islamic than many Muslim countries put together," said Maulana Syed Raza Rizvi, one of the Islamic preachers who now lead 'Londonistan'.
Since 2001, 500 London churches of all denominations have been closed. During the same period, 423 new mosques have been established. Between 2012 and 2014, the proportion ... (more >>>)
Headline Of The Week ... so far, is from The People's Cube: 'Dozens injured at Ralph Lauren & Louis Vuitton headquarters after Ivanka calls in missile strikes on rival fashion houses'.
Quote Of The Day is from Eric Hoffer: "Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength."
Thursday April 13, 2017
Profit By The Pound: Porsche has found the magic - it has managed to increase sales, widen its market with sedans and SUV, while still managing to retain its exclusivity and desirability. The automaker "delivered 238,000 vehicles last year and posted an operating profit of $4.1 billion - a 14% increase over 2015's accounting.
A little back-of-the-envelope math places the per-car profit at roughly $17,250. As a premium automaker, you'd expect it to rake it in on every vehicle sold. However, Porsche doesn't limit production to the same extent that Ferrari does in order to maintain artificially high prices. And it absolutely decimates other premium brands that offer exclusivity at a higher volume. BMW and Mercedes-Benz both hover at around $5,000 in profit per car."
In today's market, a new, base-model Chevrolet Spark can be had for as little as $5.75 per pound. Ford Fusion? As little as $6.60 per pound. A Chrysler 300 sells for as little as eight bucks per pound.
On the other hand, a well-equipped Porsche Panamera sedan sells for about $130,000 and weighs 4,100 pounds - that's $31.70 per pound.
The Porsche Cayenne SUV sells for $40,000 for a stripper to $160,000 for the top line model. Curb weight ranges from 4,500 to 4,900 pounds. A well-equipped example sells for about $95,000 and weighs 4,700 pounds - that's just over $20 per pound.
When you're selling decent volumes of cars at prices north of ... (more >>>)
Toyota MAGA: Toyota is investing $1.3 billion to retool its sprawling factory in Georgetown, Kentucky, where the company's flagship Camry sedans are built. The Avalon and the Lexus ES 350 are also assembled at Georgetown.
The upgrades amount to the biggest single investment ever at one of Toyota's existing plants in the U.S.
The updates at the Kentucky plant are part of Toyota's plans to invest $10 billion in the United States over the next five years.
Last year, the Kentucky plant produced more than 500,000 vehicles.
Book Review: 'The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads' by Tim Wu
This book is full of interesting little stories about the last 180 years or so of advertising and its variants. Wu's overall meme runs off the rails and into the weeds occasionally, such as when he delves into the propaganda of the Third Reich and Hitler's speeches. Some of the stories come off as superficial representations of a particular era.
The book ends with ... (more >>>)
Flying Can Be A Drag: Unless you've been living in a Wi-Fi-less cave for the past several days, you've already seen the video of the ticketed, assigned-and-seated passenger being dragged off a United Airlines flight. Did UA evict him to make room for an emergency surgical team on their way to do a transplant in Louisville? No. Just four deadheading United employees who were on stand-by for a flight to Louisville.
Well, if they wanted vacancies on a full plane, United should have done the capitalist thing - keep raising the ante until they got four people to accept. The airline offered $800 and got no takers. Why? Because people didn't want to hang around for 24 hours - they value their time. Besides, after you paid for a decent hotel, three meals and a rental car at big-city Chicago rates, most of the eight hundred bucks would have been consumed faster than a lone Krispy Kreme at a Fat Pride convention. All things considered, I bet the get-off-the-plane bribe would have found four takers a level just below $2,000 apiece. In retrospect, that's a mere pittance compared with the seven-figure lawsuits the 'Friendly Skies' will soon face.
Alternatively, United could have had its four employees rent a car and make the four-and-a-half hour drive to Louisville on I-65. "But nooooo!" as the late John Belushi was wont to say. Instead ... (more >>>)
Headline Of The Week is from DuffelBlog: 'Pentagon Awards Contract To United Airlines To Forcibly Remove Assad'.
"The contract, worth $2.1 billion, tasks the airline company with locating Assad, grabbing him from his seat in the presidential palace and "dragging him out of Damascus by his arms." The contract also notes that Assad should be "asked several times, politely" to give up his seat of power, though if he refuses, United workers should bloody his nose up a bit."
"Oh, No!" 84 year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called Senator Lindsey Graham one of the "women of the Senate."
Haaaaa! Every time I hear Lindsey's voice, I think of the Bruce character on 'Family Guy'. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Lindsey Graham is also one of America's most unpopular senators, right behind Majority Leader Mitch 'Mumbles' McConnell and unpredictable crank John McCain.
Pig Latin: According to Homer Simpson, Carpe Diem means Fish For A Dime.
Quote Of The Day is from Ray Kroc: "If you work just for money, you'll never make it, but if you love what you're doing and you always put the customer first, success will be yours."
Tuesday April 11, 2017
Luxury Amnesia: Once upon a time, Cadillac was the de facto world luxury automobile. Presidents, sheiks, kings, princes and popes rode in Caddys. In the 1996 comedy film, 'Mrs. Winterbourne', Ricki Lake's character spotted a Rolls Royce and exclaimed, "Wow, that's like the Cadillac of automobiles, huh?" Not these days, Ricki. Cadillac has forgotten how to be a luxury car. Amnesia? I dunno. The brand is 115 years old, so maybe ... (more >>>)
No Show: The International Motor Show in Frankfort Germany is "the oldest and, frequently, the largest exhibition of new vehicles and automotive engineering on the planet."
Some significant automakers are deciding not to bother with it this year, including Nissan, Infiniti, Mitsubishi, Peugeot, DS, Volvo, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, and Jeep.
One hundred years ago, auto shows were the only way to view offerings from the numerous smaller manufacturers. Not much was needed: a row of automotive offerings, a bit of bunting, a small sign and some pamphlets to distribute. By the 1950s, shows had become fancier with rotating turntables, voluptuous spokesmodels and four-color brochures. These auto extravaganzas provided the public with an opportunity to see models in all the different trim and color styles available and gaze upon the dreamy and futuristic concept cars.
Today, there are fewer manufacturers and vehicles have fewer trim options. Rocketship-like dream cars have been replaced by dull & weird eco-concepts which will get 100 mpg running on pressurized unicorn flatulence.
At today's major shows, there is a 'let's wow the press' mentality; major manufacturers have been known to invest as much as $50 million in their displays.
Which begs the question, "Does that manufacturer get $50 million in free publicity and/or increased sales as a result?" Many manufacturers are answering "no" and scaling back. This trend will continue.
77 Years Ago ... the three-hole punch debuted in April, 1940.
Quote Of The Day is from Richard Petty: "There is no doubt about precisely when folks began racing each other in automobiles. It was the day they built the second automobile."
Friday April 7, 2017
Trouble Down Under: Graeme Ogg, writing in Model Auto Review, noted that "Australian car manufacturing will come to an end when the iconic Holden brand closes its last domestic plant later this year. Ford stopped building cars locally a year ago. Toyota will close its assembly plant (building Camrys for export) a couple of weeks before Holden. And of course Chrysler, another big name in Australian automotive history, sold out to Mitsubishi around 1980, and Mitsubishi eventually gave up in Oz in 2008." Too bad because, in their day, the Aussies produced some wicked muscle cars.
"The problem for local manufacturers is that Australians have become spoiled for choice with foreign brands, and demand for home-grown Fords and Holdens fell off to the point where local component manufacturers couldn't make a living from the low production numbers so, ironically, components were being imported to build cars in a country which is surrounded by developing nations like Thailand and Indonesia where labour costs are much lower. Not really a viable long-term option (subsidized by the taxpayer to the tune of AU$5 billion over the last 10 years)."
Australia is a big country but ... (more >>>)
This Won't End Well: 32.5% of all subprime auto loans are now categorized as "deep subprime," with FICO scores below 550. In 2010, the percentage was just 5.1%.
"While consumers have fallen behind on most subprime auto loans, the deep classification is responsible for the most serious cases of nonpayment. Delinquencies surpassing 60-day periods have tripled since 2012 and indicate little sign of stabilizing."
It's a race to see which bubble will burst first: student loan debt or subprime auto loans.
Headline Of The Week is from The People's Cube: 'Business-savvy Entrepreneur Ivanka Trump Turns Liberals' Tears Into Perfume'.
"Speed of Lightning, Roar of Thunder, Fighting All Who Rob or Plunder - Underdog! Underdog!" Joe Harris, a commercial illustrator who envisioned and drew enduring cartoon characters like Underdog and the Trix cereal rabbit, has died at age 89.
In the late 1950s Harris created a floppy-eared white cartoon rabbit to sell Trix, a fruit-flavored, multicolored version of General Mills' more popular Kix cereal. He also came up with the iconic tagline: "Silly rabbit! Trix are for kids."
He also created Underdog, who was transformed from a canine version of a shoeshiner into a superhero, usually when the reporter Sweet Polly Purebred was threatened by villains. Harris drew Underdog "as an unlikely hero, a noodle-armed dog engulfed in a baggy red suit and blue cape."
"Underdog was a bumbler," said Harris. "He would catch the crook whether he knew how he did it or not." 'The Underdog Show' debuted in 1964; the title character was voiced by the actor Wally Cox. Underdog was a hit with young audiences and Mr. Harris helped turn the character into a balloon for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade the following year.
Later, Underdog became a car - an unlikely hero: a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle. The 40-horsepower car, with its mighty-sounding oooga horn, was well-known to Sherlock friends, neighbors, relatives and any vehicle that got in its way.
Rest in peace, Mr. Harris.
In Related News ... legendary comic Don Rickles, aka: the King of Zing and the Merchant of Venom, has died at age 90 of kidney failure. Throughout his career, he adroitly tap-danced along the fine line between humor and insult.
Rickels' career took off in the late 50s when he heckled Frank Sinatra one night, who in turn told all his friends to get out and catch Rickles' club act.
Rickles headlined casinos and nightclubs from Las Vegas to Atlantic City, and appeared often on Johnny Carson's 'Tonight Show' as well as Dean Martin's show and celebrity roasts. RIP.
A New Low: Santa Claus will be depicted in a forthcoming children's picture book as a gay black man in an interracial relationship, said publisher Harper Design. 'Santa's Husband' will go on sale on early October just in time for Christmas. The book will tell kiddies the story of "a Black Santa and his White husband (who often fills in for him at malls)," according to author Daniel Kibblesmith, a staff writer for 'The Late Show with Stephen Colbert'.
The unfortunate side effect of living in America is that people now have the freedom and right to publish such disgusting garbage. Although, in earlier times, people would have probably been arrested under the Preposterous Porn Act of 1951.
Quote Of The Day is from H.L. Mencken: "It is inaccurate to say I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office."
Wednesday April 5, 2017
March Auto Sales: U.S. light vehicle sales were at a 16.5 million SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate) in March, down 2% from March 2016, and down more than 5% from last month.
Pickup trucks continue to thrive. Ford Motor Co. sold 81,330 F-Series pickups in March (a 10% year-over-year increase), topping sales of General Motors' Chevy Silverado by 38,920 units (it was down 12%). Even when one adds in sales of the GMC Sierra (down 14%), Ford outsold GM in the pickup wars by 20,460 units. Ram pickup sales rose 6% year-over-year to 46,384 units sold last month.
Incentives were lower month-over-month in March, with GM dropping incentives by 4.5 points to $4,892, Ford cutting payments by 0.7 points to $3,983 and Fiat Chrysler cutting incentives by 0.8 points to $4,327.
General Motors posted total March U.S. sales of 256,224 vehicles, an increase of 2% compared with March 2016. Retail deliveries rose five points to 203,113 million units; fleet deliveries dipped 3% to account for 21% of total monthly sales.
Cadillac retail sales decreased 2% in March (12,861 vehicles), following an 9% decrease in February. Total Chevrolet deliveries in March decreased by 2% year over year to 172,458 units, with retail sales rising 6% to 133,705 units. Buick saw a sales jump of 15% (20,957) in March, including an increase of 22% in retail sales. The Buick Encore experienced a 29% gain.
Ford Motor Co. reported a U.S. sales decrease of 7% year-over-year in March to 236,250 Ford and Lincoln vehicles. Passenger car sales plummeted 26% in the month of March. Truck sales comprised about 45% of all Ford-brand sales last month; the F-Series pickups accounted for about 36% of total Ford-brand March sales. Mustang sales fell 27% in March to 9,120 sporty coupes and convertibles.
Fleet sales represent 33% of Ford's total, including 16% rental, 11% commercial and 6% government. At the end of March, Ford had an 80-day supply of vehicles in inventory.
Ford's sport utility vehicles posted a year-over-year decrease of 3% last month. Sales of the Lincoln brand fell 1% in March to 9,554 vehicles but sales of Lincoln cars rose 6%, helped by growth from the Lincoln Continental (963 sedans) and entry-level MKZ (2,479 sedans).
Sales at Fiat-Chrysler dropped 5% to 190,254 units. The Jeep brand posted a sales drop of 11% (67,983 utility vehicles), as the Jeep Compass showed a year-over-year sales decline of 66% and the Patriot posted a sales drop of 36%. Grand Cherokee sales rose 22%, while Renegade sales decreased by 9%. Chrysler brand sales dropped 33% (16,969 vehicles), while Dodge sales increased 10% year-over-year to 50,076 units. Fiat sales were down 5% to 2,922 vehicles. Only 555 Alfa Romeos found buyers in March.
Despite a 2% uptick at Honda - 125,531 units sold, a 21% downturn at Acura (11,696 vehicles sold) brought the automaker down 1% overall in March. Nissan set all-time records with both the Nissan (150,566 units, up a fraction) and Infiniti (18,266 vehicles, up 33%) brands. Toyota Motor Co. sales dropped 2% because of a 1% Toyota decrease (187,289 units) and an 8% decline at Lexus to 27,935 vehicles. Subaru sales rose 11% to 54,871 Subies. Both Hyundai and Kia sales were off a combined 11% to 118,684 vehicles. Volkswagen sales were up 3% to 27,635 units. Volvo sales fell in March to 5,356 vehicles, a drop of 22%. Mini sales dropped 24% to 2,154 units.
Bentley sold 249 vehicles in March, a jump of 109% over last March. 1,312 Maseratis found homes last month, an increase of 32% over last year. Jaguar sales were up a whopping 132% to 4,953 vehicles, while Land Rover sales declined 9% to 7,965 utility vehicles. Mercedes-Benz slightly outsold BMW last month (31,963 to 31,015), while Audi sold 18,705 vehicles, an increase of 2%.
Only 385 Smart cars found buyers in March. You have to wonder when Mercedes is going to throw in the towel on this little turkey.
What Season Is It? Washington State law mandates that all studded snow tires be removed from vehicles before April 1st. But winter-mix gas lingers on until May 1st. Go figure.
Anyway, my '39 Plymouth coupe needed gas and there's only one station in town that carries non-winter-mix premium grade. At $4.50/gallon. With pumps that are difficult to work and non-intuitive. Nozzles that never shut off properly and spill pricey fuel all over the fender. A receipt printer that hasn't worked in years and no windshield washing supplies. No wonder no one calls them 'service stations' any more.
I hate patronizing the place; I show up prepared with a bucket of slightly soapy water, a wash mitt and towels to clean off the fender afterward. When I get home, I wax the area around the filler pipe, just in case.
Aside from that, my drive afterwards was great. Traffic was light and the skies were mostly sunny, although it was a chilly 38 degrees at 9:30 am. Everything was greening up; magnolia trees were in peak blossom. Mount St. Helens remained fully clothed in snow.
My back-road loop was a pleasant journey and I look forward to future sunny days when I can drive to my heart's content, knowing that my next fill-up will be in May at a decent gas station.
Looking At A Distant Past: This is a recently-discovered photo of my paternal great-grandmother, Kate, taken around 1895 in Cincinnati. She was in her mid-50s at the time and had emigrated from Western Ireland a couple of years earlier.
I had never seen a photo of her before. This one was smudged, cracked and quite yellowed but I fixed as much as I could in Photoshop. It's amazing that this 120+ year-old photo has survived at all. Kate has a nice smile.
Happy Birthday, Terry: My brother turned 63 today.
Book Review: 'In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!' by Ann Coulter
This book was published in late August 2016, when Ann Coulter was on a short list of Trump Believers. Had she been wrong and had Trump not won the election, this book would have failed to sell even in remainder bins. But, to the amazement of the know-it-all political consultants, smug analysts, the chattering classes and the unctuous talking heads, Donald Trump won the presidency. Ann was an early Trump supporter along with a few others: Jeff Sessions, the Newtster, Mark Steyn, Jan Brewer. Mike Huckabee Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs.
Ann noted that Trump won the nomination by ... (more >>>)
Donald Trump's assertion that Obama was spying on him doesn't seem so far-fetched these days.
Quote Of The Day is from Groucho Marx: "I would never join any club that would have the likes of me as a member."
Monday April 3, 2017
Commuting 1951-Style: I spent several years (1971-78) doing the smoggy daily round trip from my home in New Jersey to my job in downtown Philadelphia. Rush hour traffic was bumper-to-bumper and, apparently, it was no better twenty years earlier.
In this period photo ... (more >>>)
Hybrid Style: Here's my theory - if Birkenstocks remained as comfortable as they're reported to be (I've never worn a pair) but were styled like a conventional shoe, sales would drop by at least 50%.
Chronic Birkenstock wearers aren't just shodding themselves, they're Making A Statement. In the same way ... (more >>>)
Working Hard And Getting Stuff Done: They used to call James Brown "the hardest working man in show business." I think Donald J. Trump is the hardest working man in the president business. Just look at some of the things he's accomplished so far:
Despite his accomplishments, President Trump continues to fight an uphill battle. Matt Drudge suspects Congress is intentionally undermining the president with legislative and policy hurdles and obstructions. "Do you know Obama had the stimulus package on his desk before Inauguration Day? What did this Congress give this great man? Nothing."
Meanwhile, Liberals are unhappy and continue to live in a fantasy world. 'Meet the Press' host Chuck Todd declared that Donald Trump, who has been president for less than 75 days, is a "lame duck" who is "on the brink." Yeah right, Chuck.
How Come You Never Hear ... about California's Oroville Dam spillway anymore? Maybe Jerry Brown bought 100,000 cases of Flex Seal and fixed it.
Quote Of The Day is from Carl Sandburg: "A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on."
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