The View Through The Windshield - Car Blog

A Blog About Cars ... And Everything Else That Catches My Eye
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Wednesday December 17, 2014

Don't Forget: There's only one more week of shopping before Christmas:

the view through the windshield

The View From A Millennial Moron: Recently, Melody Lee, 'Director of Brand and Reputation Strategy' for General Motors' Cadillac luxury brand and a self-described millennial, had some bizarrely interesting things to say about the move to NYC, about the brand, and about herself.

car blogThus spake Melody, "I don't buy products, I buy brands. I don't use Apple computers because they are the best computers, I use them because Apple is cool. We need to show drivers what the Cadillac lifestyle is all about. ... We want to be a global luxury brand that happens to sell cars. We don't want to be an automotive brand."

Devices that became cool did so because had something to offer - quality, reliability, style. Or all three. And a goal - this is how BMW lifted itself from a maker of Isetta bubble cars to a top luxury brand.

TTAC commenter readallover wrote, "One of the reasons Apple is so beloved is because it was compared to Microsoft. MS product routinely were released with consumers as the beta testers. Compared to MS, Apple stuff worked right the first time and was intuitive to start with. Cadillac is Microsoft: over-promise and under-deliver. Lexus is Apple. If she wants Caddy to be the new Apple she needs to start at the dealer level – the 'experience' at the dealer level is on par with any used car lot. She may think she is selling only the image, but way more people care about the product."

Think about it: Everything that trades on 'perception' began as a novel and excellent product.

As to the 'Cadillac lifestyle', please wake me when Caddy figures out what that is these days. Sixty years ago, Cadillac ... (more >>>)

Speaking of Cadillac ... the brand's Fleetwood 75 models were a series of long-wheelbase, limousine-style models manufactured from the mid-1930s to 1987. I have a 1:43 scale 1958 Cadillac Fleetwood 75 limousine in navy blue made in 1996 by ... (more >>>)

car blogYou May Not Know Her Name ... but you've heard her voice: Session singer Millie Kirkham has died at age 91.

She sang backup soprano vocals on Ferlin Husky's 'Gone', Elvis' 'Blue Christmas', Brenda Lee's 'I'm Sorry', Roy Orbison's 'Pretty Woman' and more. RIP.

Book Review: 'The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan' by Rick Perlstein

This is a sad and dreary chronicle of the 1970s. In this a downer of a book; the author paints the era as if it were America's Hell Decade. I lived in the 1970s. It wasn't all that bad. Yes, there was Watergate and the Downfall of Nixon but we had a successful transfer of a regime without military troops or gunfire. Gas rationing in 1974 sucked but then, so did disco music. And Nixon's price-controls. And Carter's malaise speech. The economy was lackluster but there was no wholesale closing of businesses.

auto blogThe big-bumpered cars of the mid-1970s were mostly ugly and the primitive pollution controls made them run horribly, especially when started cold. I spent many a chilly morning, sitting in a rented Dodge or Mercury with ice-cold vinyl seats, waiting for the engine to warm up enough that I could make a left exit from a Ramada Inn without stalling and getting killed by an oncoming delivery truck. Or Plymouth Fury police car.

But, aside from all that, things were pretty good in those bad old days. I kept my job and so did almost all my friends. People were still dining out; it was often tough to get a table on weekends. The stock market was pretty flat during the decade but no one was jumping out of windows.

I soon grew weary of reading... (more >>>)

Headline Of The Week ... so far is from The People's Cube: 'CIA responds to Democrat calls for transparency by releasing the director's cut of The Making Of Obama's Birth Certificate'. Runner-up is from the same source: 'Obama signs executive order renaming looters to undocumented shoppers'.

Bad Pun Of The Day: One of Santa's helpers was sent to a therapist because he seemed depressed. Diagnosis: Low Elf Esteem.


Monday December 15, 2014

Milestone: A year after the 27 millionth Ford made the trek from San Francisco to the NY World's Fair and back, the 28 millionth Ford sedan appeared at the Fair as part of its 'International Good Will Tour'.

International? It probably went to Canada but I doubt that it made it to Nazi Germany. Or Poland. (permalink)

Just In Time For Christmas: The three-wheeled 2015 Polaris Slingshot is a big, heavy, steroid-loaded update to the three-wheel Morgans of yore and the low-slung machine will probably fit under your Christmas tree if it's tall enough and you trim some of the lower branches.

Dan Neil tested it and was wondering about its reason for being: "I was meditating on what sort of people would buy the Polaris Slingshot SL, a three-wheel cry for help from the power-sports toy factory in Medina, Minn. .... What unites these consumers, I've concluded, is their anarchic disregard for $24,000. Beyond that, motives vary, as they must in the purchase of anything with rubber seats."

Actually, Dan, I suspect that the purpose of the Slingshot is to give Polaris dealers something to sell during the off-season for snowmobiles.

Is it safe? Mr. Neil wrote, "This machine has no air bags and a chrome-moly frame that, while surely well made and properly engineered, would fold like chicken wire in a proper pickup-to-Slingshot SL collision. They would never get you out of the thing. You would have to be buried in it."

Ever wonder what happens to the tooling for failed General Motors products? Well ... (more >>>)

Train Update: Due to my current health situation, I lacked the strength/stamina to put up the usual train layout this year. Instead I put up three loops of track on the living room floor by the Christmas tree.

Everything is now working: the big outer loop is for my Lionel Hiawatha streamlined passenger train, the middle loop is for a Pennsylvania Railroad diesel freight set and the small inner loop is for a trolley car.

I did a lot of ... (more >>>)

Grinding Old Bones: Daniel Hannan, author of 'Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World', wrote about 14th Century theologian John Wycliffe, whose writings inspired part of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

Wycliffe, a Catholic priest, opposed the selling of indulgences and other Catholic practices. He was one of the earliest opponents of papal authority over secular power. Wycliffe insisted that holiness an individual was more important than official office; that is, a truly pious person was morally superior to a wicked ordained cleric. The Church hierarchy was not pleased ... (more >>>)

Bridge Update: Last week, I wrote about the big fir tree that fell on the bridge behind our house during a major windstorm.

So, how did the Cedars Golf Course 'repair' its bridge? Find out here (with photo documentation). You'll be shocked.

Crafting Dough: Recently, I was reading an ad supplement in the newspaper. It seemed like every product featured was described as "artisan." This term used to be a noun, meaning a skilled craftsperson. Then it became an adjective, referring to something produced by a skilled craftsperson in very small batches.

One would think, therefore, that producing Artisan Bread would involve some kind of skilled craft tools. A jeweler's loupe? Chisel? Glassblower's tongs? Nope. According to artisanbakers.com, "An artisan baker is a craftsperson who is trained to the highest ability to mix, ferment, shape and bake a hand crafted loaf of bread. They understand the science behind the chemical reactions of the ingredients and know how to provide the best environment for the bread to develop." Aha! So, all non-artisan bread is Sloppily-made Bread. Thanks, artisanbakers, for the enlightenment. (For lunch, I'll think I'll have roast beef on Careless Jewish Rye.)

7-11 offers sandwiches made with Artisan Bread. I immediately pictured ... (more >>>)

Four Stages of a Man's Life: 1. You believe in Santa Claus. 2. You don't believe in Santa Claus. 3. You are Santa Claus. 4. You look like Santa Claus.


Friday December 12, 2014

Just In Time For Christmas: The 1947 Sears Christmas catalog offered this Steelcraft pedal car, loosely based on the 1941 Chrysler:

the view through the windshield

Sears sold the same model for $15.72 in 1946 although the '46 model had a working horn. I can personally confirm that it was a great little pedal car ... (more >>>)

Crapmobile: Over at TTAC, Derek Kreindler has cast aspersions on the Mercedes G-Wagen - an ugly machine I've always believed was 'styled' using empty Cheerios boxes and a stapler.

car blogHe noted that "Mercedes has been coasting on the success of the G-Wagen SUV, which, in a world of antiquated designs wrapped in high-dollar vestments and sold at outrageous markups, is the zenith of this formula: a 30+ year-old military truck built for the Shah of Iran, flocked in faux-Chanel handbag upholstery and sold to the consorts of the one percent as this season's must-have mode of transportation.

The one and only time I have driven a G-Wagen was when I babysat the owner of a G63 AMG, a friend-of-a-friend who makes bi-monthly appearances at rehab facilities. We had stayed out far too late – or should I say, I stayed out far too late for somebody who hadn't ingested cardiotoxic quantities of stimulants, and it was up to me to get my friend, and the G-Wagen home safely.

I drove the short distance back to his home, marveling at what a wretched nugget of dogshit the G-Wagen was. It was dynamically reprehensible: every application of the brakes, throttle or steering resulted in some kind of reciprocal pitching or yawing. Even though it packed a twin-turbo AMG V8 under the hood, there was no way you could ever use any of the power."

Of course, you could affix a three-pointed star to a huge stinking pile of manure and some people would still buy it. Put fancy and meretricious rims on it and wealthy rap singers will battle one another to get one - just so they can hear the envious refrain as they cruise through the ghetto, "Man, that is some shit!"

Driving Free: Doug Flint has written about the profound positive influence of the automobile on society. "Think of the power and mobility millions of people have that never existed before in mankind's history and does not exist anywhere else. In 24 hours' time you can move a thousand miles in any direction. You don't have to ask anyone's permission, fill out any papers, or buy a ticket. Show me someone who got caught in a hurricane and I'll show you someone who didn't own a car."

Doug also pointed out that "no matter how much you spend buying a car, it really won't do much more than a used clunker purchased for $2,500. How egalitarian can you get?"

Good News ... on the cancer front: On Monday, I went to a day surgery center in Portland and received a thorough examination by my gastroenterologist. He found no signs of cancer.

On Thursday, I met with my oncologist to get recent blood test results. In short, the cancer marker 'result' is zero. Great news. I go back for more blood work in three months.

Afterward, my wife and I went to the Olive Garden - a few blocks away from the clinic - to celebrate. Donna, the front of house manager, bought us lunch! She said she was sympathetic to cancer patients because her dad died of the disease. A wonderful and unexpected gesture on her part. Thanks, Donna - and it was a swell lunch, too.

I've always liked the vibe at this east Vancouver Olive Garden (164th and Mill Plain Blvd.) and have written about it here. And, yes, Joe was our waiter this time around.

What a great day - no cancer plus a free meal!

Remembering Aunt Ceil: My godmother and favorite aunt died 60 years ago at the young age of 38.

joe sherlock blog

She suffered many health problems in her lifetime and endured a lot of pain especially in her final battle with breast cancer but always had a smile and a kind word for me. And others. She was a generous woman and my best presents - toys, books, etc. - came from Aunt Ceil ... (more >>>)

j. sherlock blogBad Investments: In a year when the S&P 500 is up over 13%, the Nysa Fund is the worst performing mutual fund of 2014, down 41% so far this year. "The fund received just one out of five stars from Morningstar, the worst rating for past performance awarded."

As for individual stocks, one of the year's big losers is Amedica, a manufacturer of silicon nitride orthopedic and spinal implants. Shares have fallen by more than 90%. "With a book value of just under $12 million and nearly $5 million in losses in the last quarter, Amedica is quite small and quite risky." By comparison, many health care mutual funds are up about 30% so far in 2014.

Regarding fiat money, this was not a good year to bet against the dollar which ... (more >>>)

Big Storm: During Thursday's windstorm (wind gusts of almost 60 mph), we lost power from 5:30 pm until 2:00 am Friday, along with 62,698 other homes in Clark County, WA. The winds were driven by a low pressure system that developed over the Pacific Ocean, according to the National Weather Service. The Portland-metro area, Oregon Coast, Western Washington state and Central Oregon all experienced high winds.

joe sherlock blog

A giant fir tree on the Cedars Golf Course - just behind our house - fell on the metal bridge spanning the Salmon Creek, seriously damaging the bridge structure. Except for lots of tree debris on our lawn and driveway, we suffered no damage, thankfully.

Headline Of The Week ... is from The Rumsford Meteor: 'Gay Couples Now Considering Just Shacking Up And Having Illegitimate Kids To Prove They're Equal With Heterosexuals'.

Quote Of The Day: Politicians are like Christmas lights. They all hang together, half of the suckers don't work and the ones that do aren't that bright.


Wednesday December 10, 2014

We Build Excitement! That used to be the slogan for Pontiac. Over the years, General Motors built millions of them.

the view through the windshield

But General Motors and Pontiac lost their way. In late November 2009, the last Pontiac rolled off the assembly line. Read more about Pontiac's rise and fall here. (permalink)

Korean Invasion: Hyundai Motor Group expects to finish calendar year 2014 having sold of eight million Hyundai and Kia vehicles worldwide.

According to Bloomberg, the key to Hyundai's growth is beating original sales expectations in Brazil, China and India. Strong sales of crossover vehicles are also helping.

It Took 100 Years ... but Maserati has just produced its 50,000 vehicle at its plant in Grugliasco, Italy.

The landmark 50,000th vehicle was a 2015 Quattroporte S Q4 in dark grey with a red and black interior, bound for the US market that's reaching new sales records for the automaker. Maserati was established on December 1, 1914, in Bologna.

car blogHow To Lose Jobs In One Easy Lesson: Seattle, Washington, one of the strongest bastions of lefty philosophy, passed a phased-in $15 minimum wage law earlier this year. The council vote was unanimous and a throng of clueless morons outside cheered, but for many this will soon become a reversal of fortune.

In response to Seattle's coming $15 minimum wage - the highest in the U.S., Kathrina Tugadi, owner of Seattle's El Norte Lounge - a bar/restaurant in North Seattle featuring Mexican dishes, no longer hires musicians for her restaurant, she said she can't justify expenses that don't directly "add to the bottom line." And, she says, hours will have to be cut: El Norte Lounge stopped serving lunch and only serves dinner now. She's also removed labor-intensive menu items and adjusted prices in preparation for the wage hike.

"I am concerned about my business and others in the community, but it isn't just about any one business. It's about how the entire economic community," she said. "El Norte may be unable to remain open once the ordinance is fully in effect." Even Pagliacci Pizza, a Seattle-area pizza chain, is moving its call center and some of its production facilities outside the city. Bye-bye Seattle jobs.

Back in the mid-1980s ... (more >>>)

Book Review: 'Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World' by Daniel Hannan

This book is an ambitious and comprehensive account of the origin and growth of the basic principles of freedom enjoyed by English-speaking countries. Freedom and individual rights grew as a result of a series of landmark documents, from the Magna Carta to the U.S. Constitution.

English-speaking peoples created and maintained democratic government: freedom of speech, government by consent of the people and basic right of private property.

Author, blogger and British member of the European Parliament, Mr. Hannan believes that Continental Europeans have never valued representative government ... (more >>>)

Where Is Phil Hartman When We Need Him? David Burge (Iowahawk) channeled Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Jonathan Gruber: "I'm just a simple unfrozen caveman health care architect. Your modern ways frighten and confuse me."

Bad Pun Of The Day: Santa's helpers are subordinate clauses.


Monday December 8, 2014

Big Bucks For A Smallish Car: The 450 horsepower BMW M4 convertible accelerates to 60 mph in an astounding 4.3 seconds. It also costs over $88,000 and, according to Dan Neil, depreciates faster than a falling boulder.

car blog"I certainly don't mean to compare the residual value of high-performance, low-volume Germany factory tuners - your Audi RS 4s, your Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMGs, Porsche Cayenne Turbos and the M4s - with the Hindenburg, because that would be tasteless. Another exploding gas ball plunging out the sky, yes, of course, fair play. But not the Hindenburg."

The M4 has got a retractable metal top, too: "It was nigh about 40 degrees and gray when I struck the M4's three-piece retractable aluminum hardtop - itself a delightful, nearly silent enterprise of magical self-folding and then, poof, it's gone. I also rolled down all the windows because if you don't, I hate to be the one to inform you, people think you are retired."

So, how do you keep warm, you ask? The exclusive Bimmer 'neck warmer' system. "You can tell a German named it. So very on point. This system breathes warm air out of vents built into the front seats and down the occupants' collars in a way that I found a little pushy, frankly. Mr. BMW! We just met. What about your lease manager?"

Sounds like a nice car, if you've got the money and can handle the steep depreciation and high maintenance costs when It gets out of warranty. Good luck.

Looking Good: I took a photo of my wife's 2005 Toyota Avalon a few weeks ago when ... (more >>>)

Speaking Of Personal Vehicles ... I took delivery of my 2008 Lexus LS 460 almost exactly seven years ago.

Because I have retired and no longer use the car for business travel and because I've been sick and staying home more lately, the car doesn't get much use. The odometer now shows .... (more >>>)

Plastic Fantasies: The Dimestore Dreams line of molded plastic vehicles was created by collector and toy car enthusiast, Bill Hanlon.

auto blog

The vehicles are reminiscent of those available from five-and-dime stores in the early postwar years, when the then-new plastics injection molding industry offered toy models which were inexpensive, fairly sturdy (the color was molded in, not painted on) and price-competitive with traditional diecast and pressed tin models.

Some early plastic toy pioneers ... (more >>>)

Just In Time For Christmas: The World's Simplest Electric Train can be seen in operation here.

Tepid Recovery: The commercial office real estate market in Southwest Washington is slowly improving.

The overall vacancy rate for top-tier class A and B office properties has dropped to 16% or less, from a high point of about 21% a few years ago, according to Adam Roselli, commercial broker at Eric Fuller & Associates.

But that's still a high number. Furthermore ... (more >>>)

Headline Of The Week ... so far is from The Onion: 'KFC, Midas Team Up For Much-Anticipated Crossover Meal'.

Stating the new product brings together the best that two of America's most trusted brands have to offer, fast food giant KFC and automotive service chain Midas introduced their long-awaited crossover meal, the Road Bucket, this week.

"Our bold new Road Bucket is exactly what KFC and Midas fans have been waiting for, with 10 pieces of chicken, your choice of two sides, and four biscuits served on a corrosion-resistant aluminized steel muffler, all for the special low price of $19.99," said KFC marketing director Mike Wesley.

Quote of the Day is from Victor Borge: "Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people only once a year."


Thursday December 4, 2014

car blogNovember Auto Sales: This was another strong month for vehicle sales - the second month with 17 million Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate this year - and the seventh consecutive month with a sales rate over 16 million.

Light vehicle sales were at a 17.1 million SAAR in November - up 5.5% from November 2013, and up 4.5% from the 16.4 million annual sales rate last month.

Chrysler Group led major automakers in posting robust November sales, setting the pace for what is forecast to be a stellar month for the industry. Chrysler gained 20%, mostly due to Ram truck (up 31%) and Jeep sales (+27%).

General Motors rebounded from a soft October, posting total November sales of 225,818 vehicles, a rise of 7% compared with November 2013. Total Chevrolet deliveries in November were up 3% year-over-year. The Chevy Cruze posted a sales gain of 26% in November. Chevy Silverado pickup sales rose 25%. Buick sold 19,143 vehicles in November - a gain of 27%.

GM's new SUVs and pickups continue to be big hits, and GM claimed its average transaction price in November was the highest ever at $35,600. GMC Sierra pickups sold 22,544 units in November, up 57% year-over-year, and total Sierra sales year-to-date are up 13.1%. GMC brand sales rose 27% last month.

Toyota and the VW brand each increased 3%. Subaru sales jumped 24% to 45,273 vehicles. Honda sales were up 5%; Acura rose 2%.

Scion sales, on the other hand, plunged 21%. Land Rover (-21%), Cadillac (-19% - outsold by Acura, no less), Smart (-15% to 815 units), Infiniti (-13%), Volvo (-14%) and Jaguar (-13%) all posted double-digit losses, as well.

Ford posted a U.S. sales decline in November of 2% to 187,000 Ford and Lincoln vehicles, compared with November 2013 sales of 190,449. Sales of the company's best-selling Escape compact SUV rose 22% year-over-year and sales of the Lincoln brand rose 21% to 8,113 units. The full-size Explorer SUV saw sales rise by 13% year-over-year.

Sales of the F-Series pickups slipped another 10% in November as buyers await the all-new aluminum-bodied F-Series due out by the end of this year. The bright spot for Ford's car sales was the all-new 2015 Mustang, which saw sales jump 62.4% to 8,728 autos - about double the number of Camaro ponycars sold last month.

As for premium brands, Mercedes-Benz claimed a broad victory in November but trails BMW by 1,830 sales heading into 2014's final month. Lexus, the third-ranked premium automaker, showed a sales increase of 7% with 27,472 vehicles finding buyers. Audi sales gained 22% to 16,650 units.

Large incentives no doubt helped General Motors ($3,505 per vehicle) and Ford Motor ($3,046), according to Edmunds.com. Chrysler's deals were a little lower ($2,928) and significantly leaner discounts were offered by Nissan ($2,125), Toyota ($1,664) and Honda ($1,097 per vehicle).

Superfail: Spyker Cars, a Dutch maker of supercars, has filed for bankruptcy.

The automaker set up shop in 1999 to make high-end luxury sports cars. In 2006, however, it bit off what proved to be more than it could chew when it took over what had been the Jordan Grand Prix team, subsequently selling it to Force India.

That failed venture didn't prevent it from the über-ambitious step of taking over Saab from General Motors in 2010. That didn't work out so well and the company has floundered ever since.

Resurrecting Old Memories: One of the toys I remember from when I was four years old or so, was a Tootsietoy model of a Buick. I found out later that it was a somewhat crude interpretation of the 1938 Buick Y-Job, General Motors' first show car.

the view through the windshield

In 1981, I found an example at a San Francisco-area model car swap meet. It had no wheels and most of the paint was gone; I acquired it for the princely sum of $1.

I purchased some white rubber wheels and chrome axles for it and treated it to ... (more >>>)

Book Review: 'Economics: The User's Guide' by Ha-Joon Chang

They say that economics is the Dismal Science. It has also been called the Boring Science. I believe it; I began losing interest about halfway through this book.

Cambridge economist Chang has tried ... (more >>>)

Cutting Wit: James Lileks weighed in on the old razor blades of yore. Yore being pre-1980, as I recollect. An old razor blade had a finite life: "When it was dull, you threw it away. There are untold millions in the landfill. If ever there's an explosion, the rain will hurt."

Quote Of The Day is from Jay Leno: "The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a Nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn't for religious reasons. They couldn't find three wise men and a virgin."

There was no problem, however, finding enough asses to fill the stable.


Tuesday December 2, 2014

High End Growth: Of the fastest-growing automotive models in 2014, the list is dominated by pricey vehicles, such as Chevy Corvette (up 146% over last year), Lexus GX460 (+109%), Mercedes S-Class (+105%), GMC Yukon (+54%) and Cadillac Escalade (+51%).

Somebody's got money out there.

car blogCoupe This: Four-door coupes are still big sellers, even though the rear seat area only has headroom for small children, dachshunds and midget corpses with broken necks.

I would remind people who think these vehicles are trendy, that the this style ... (more >>>)

Remember When Olds Was Hot? In 1962, GM was selling them as fast as they could make 'em. Sales peaked in 1985 at 1.2 million cars per year. Sadly ... (more >>>)

Poor Sellers: The four least-popular Amazon.com Black Friday Deals (in Toys & Games):

Tickle Me Bill Cosby
Transgendered Transformers
Wham-O Kardashian Slip 'n Slide (personal lubricant not included)
My Little Pony Glue Factory

Bad Pun of the Day: Sign at a nudist camp: 'Sorry - Clothed for Winter'.


Disclaimer

This blog is about cars, automobiles, vehicles of various sorts and more.

The facts presented in this car blog are based on my best guesses and my substantially faulty geezer memory. The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and are protected by the U.S. Constitution. Probably.

Spelling, punctuation and syntax errors are cheerfully repaired when I find them; grudgingly fixed when you do.

If I have slandered any brands of automobiles, either expressly or inadvertently, they're most likely crap cars and deserve it. Automobile manufacturers should be aware that they always have the option of trying to change my mind by providing me with vehicles to test drive.

If I have slandered any people, politicians, celebrities or corporations in this blog, either expressly or inadvertently, they should buy me strong drinks (and an expensive meal), while patiently attempting to prove that they're not the jerks I've portrayed them to be. If you're buying, I'm willing to listen.

Don't be shy - try a bribe. It might help.

copyright 2014 - Joseph M. Sherlock - All applicable rights reserved


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