The View Through The Windshield - Car Blog by Joe Sherlock

A Blog About Cars ... And More

Monday August 21, 2017

2017 Monterey Week: Last week's annual car festival offered the usual mix of spectacular and fascinating vehicles on display as well as always-interesting auto auction results. Once simply the Pebble Beach Concours, this car-centric, scenic venue has been expanded to include week-long events, including exclusive new vehicle launches by manufacturers as well as numerous track and rally events And humongous traffic jams as people try to attend every event.

This year, the Pebble Beach Concours featured a special ten-vehicle exhibit: American Dream Cars of the 1960s Class. One of them was the one-off, Cadillac-powered 1960 DiDia 150, built for singer Bobby Darin.

Darin drove his wife, Sandra Dee, in the befinned, aluminum-bodied car to the 34th Academy Awards in 1961.

Other one-off dream cars on exhibit included the 1966 Bosley Mark II Interstate Coupe, 1962 Studebaker Sceptre Concept Coupe by Brooks Stevens, 1963 Mantaray by Dean Jeffries, 1963 Tex Smith XR6 Custom Roadster, 1965 Bugatti T101C Roadster by Virgil Exner/Carrozzeria Ghia, 1965 Pontiac Vivant Roadster by Herb Adams, 1967 Gyro-X by Alex Tremulis, 1969 Farago CF 428 Coupe by Paul Farago and Gene Winfield's 1965 Reactor.

BMW unveiled a gorgeous Concept Z4 convertible at Pebble Beach. A production version will go on sale next year. Mercedes-Benz exhibited the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet concept. It is 19-feet in length but carries only two people. It features a 750-horsepower electric powertrain. Land Rover also presented its the Range Rover Velar and SVOs $200,000 ultra-luxury Range Rover SV Autobiography Long Wheelbase SUV. The Volkswagen Electric Microbus concept was seen on the roads around Monterey last week; Volkswagen confirmed that a production version would appear in 2022. The first U.S. Bugatti Chiron - a yellow and black example - was delivered to a customer during the Pebble Beach activities. Price of this Chiron was in the $3 million dollar neighborhood.

Then there are the auctions. According to ... (more >>>)

Summer Is More Than Half Gone ... but Saturday morning brought virtually cloudless blue skies above with a ring of white clouds around the horizon, looking like the fringe on a bald man. At 9:00 am the temperature was 61 degrees. I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and went for a drive. The roads were nearly empty.

I had the windows down so I could listen to the Glasspacks purr. Forty years after his death and sixty years after he recorded it, Elvis was warbling 'Jailhouse Rock' though the speakers. It was a most enjoyable weekend old-car drive.

Never Lick Old Brake Shoes: An article in Hemmings pointed out that Austrailia's crackdown on asbestos has essentially halted collector car imports into that country.

"According to an account by Australian collector car importer Terry Healy that received widespread attention across Australia - and that may have prompted the ABF to issue its notice – extensive testing on the 1965 Ford Mustang and 1966 Shelby G.T. 350 he had shipped to Australia earlier this year cost roughly $15,000, caused $12,000 in damages due to destructive testing of samples from the two cars, and led to the seizure of a number of parts found to contain asbestos, among them the brake pads, brake shoes, exhaust manifold gaskets, and exhaust pipe gaskets."

Asbestos was commonly found in clutches, brakes, transmissions, and gaskets up until the 1970s. I would point out that our first home, purchased new in 1968, featured asbestos roofing and - an extra-cost option - long-wearing vinyl asbestos floor tile.

Book Review: 'The Land Of Enterprise: A Business History Of The United States' by Benjamin C. Waterhouse

Enterprise has always been undervalued as a component and driver of U.S. history. Waterhouse's 288-page book attempts to tell the story through the eyes of business people - traders, entrepreneurs executives, bankers and farmers - from colonial times to the present. His tale leaves behind a trail of hits and misses.

Early in the book, the author claims that ... (more >>>)

His Nutty Professor Persona Lives On In Professor John Frink: Legendary comedian and filmmaker Jerry Lewis has died at age 91.

His career had its ups and downs; he was, at his worst, mercurial and hard to deal with. At his best, Jerry was talented, funny and generous. Nevertheless Jerry was a defining figure of 20th Century American entertainment. He teamed up with Dean Martin in New York; they became famous after an extended month 1946 run at Skinny D'Amato's 500 Club in Atlantic City, NJ.

Over the years, Lewis raised a lot of money for charities, including over $2 billion dollars for Muscular Distrophy. His antics with Dean Martin made me laugh when I was a kid. I last saw him perform as the Devil in a touring production of 'Damn Yankees' in 1995. Rest in Peace, Jerry.

I Bet Every One Of Them Voted For Hillary: Deroy Murdock of National Review did some number-crunching and found that "some 3.5 million more people are registered to vote in the U.S. than are alive among America's adult citizens. Such staggering inaccuracy is an engraved invitation to voter fraud."

Yet the mainstream media scoffed last year when Donald Trump proclaimed that the only reason Hillary Clinton won the popular vote was due to widespread election fraud.

Bad Pun of the Day: They accused her of stealing the broach but they just couldn't pin it on her.


Thursday August 17, 2017

Above My Pay Grade: Rolls-Royce has introduced the 2018 Phantom VIII (not to be confused with the Lincoln Mark VIII coupe of the 1990s, nor Acryloid VIII, the failed synthetic marble resin of the '70s). Phantoms are Rolls-Royce's largest and grandest car ever, born from the same line as those used by Elvis, Queen Elizabeth II and 50 Cent, plus myriad tycoons, dictators and oligarchs the world over. The revamped saloon will cost $440,000. And up.

In 1966, I saw a Rolls Royce Phantom V on display at the New York Auto Show. It carried a price tag of $16,500, which is $125,900 in today's dollars. So the latest model is quite expensive by any standard, especially historical ones.

On the other hand, it is an improvement over the last iteration. It offers more effective headroom than the last one - accomplished by RR boffins having fettled the door openings to provide increased vertical clearance for a sheik's headdress, a gentleman's top hat ... or a royal's crown.

"It's worth noting that this is only the second Phantom produced by Rolls-Royce under its BMW overlords." It's also due to a new - as opposed to simply updated or reconfigured - engine. Rolls gave Phantom VIII a twin-turbo, 6.75-liter, V12 engine turbocharged to 563 horsepower. (This is a change from the previous naturally aspirated, 453 horsepower V12 engine used in Phantom VII.) The twin-turbo facilitates additional low-end power at lower revs, which works wonders to ensure silence at speeds of up to 155 mph.

This is a large, heavy car, which will - nonetheless - reach 60 mph from a standing start in 5.3 seconds. Interestingly, the Phantom VIII has a ZF 8-speed gearbox that is "aided by satellite technology to make impeccable shifts for the road ahead at any speed." It also features four-wheel steering - just like Lamborghini or my 1992 Nissan 300ZX - which increases agility and stability around corners.

This time the Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament can be had in silver, gold or illuminated transparent polycarbonate plastic.

"Front-seat passengers are also treated to a new dash experience, The Gallery, which was inspired by Rolls' customer's fondness for putting high-end art in their boats and planes. Nestled into the dash immediately to the side of the instrument panel is, effectively, a shadowbox complete with glass front. This area is designed to be a showplace for Phantom owners to commission bespoke pieces of art that are impressive or important to them." This is the ultra-wealthy equivalent of having a few sports bobbleheads or other tchotkes displayed in your office cubicle.

The Phantom VIII is elegant excess at its best. Just for laughs, I think I'll equip mine with a print of Edvard Munch's 'The Scream' on the driver's airbag.

Sunny Spin: Yesterday morning, I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and took a drive. At 9:30, the temperature was 60 degrees and the skies were a cloudless, brilliant summer blue.

On one stretch of back road, the only other car was a white Fiat 500 coming the other way. I passed a couple of joggers, trying to get their runs in before things got too hot - the afternoon temperature eventually reached the low 80s.

The Plymouth ran great - as usual - and I had an enjoyable ride.

White House Drama: Last month, I wrote, "For every athlete, there's a competitor. For every nation, there's an enemy. For every political candidate, there's an opponent. And if there isn't, the press will invent one." President Donald Trump has identified his adversaries and makes sure that he needles them every day. Usually on Twitter.

The Zman recently wrote, "The key to understanding Trump has always been that he loves drama. The never ending quarrel is what gets him up in the morning. He thrives in chaos and when he cannot find it, he creates it. The reason is Trump is an opportunist. That's his nature. He seeks to maximize what he has in order to leverage it into a chance to catch someone sleeping, so he can get a bargain in his next deal."

The continued insane, foaming-at-the-mouth response to Donald Trump's election from those thin, rich, fashionable Elites shows that your so-called Betters are not blessed with better judgment. The Donald has gotten inside their stylishly-coiffed heads. This is a big list, including everyone who appears on MSNBC, writes for Slate, Politico, WaPo or the New York Times, every human drawing breath at the Center for American Progress and 80% of the people who appear under the National Review or Weekly Standard masthead.

Zman concluded that things may work out well - Trump "is the destroyer of worlds, because the world of Washington needs destroying." Sure does.

Sometimes I Wonder If America Is Turning Into Russia: History is being scrubbed and statues are being "disappeared" faster than you can spell 'Joe Stalin'.

Last week's Charlottesville, Virginia riot was over a statue. Reading Pravda the U.S. media, one would think that it was all about the KKK and Nazis. It wasn't. It was a bunch of bubbas (some were Klanmen and/or neo-Nazis) who had a legally-secured permit to protest the pending removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, a legitimate historic figure - especially to those who live below the Mason-Dixon Line ... or as it is now known, the iHop-Waffle House line.

A bunch of permit-less, leftist 'Antifas', allegedly funded by mega-wealthy troublemaker George Soros, showed up and picked a fight. It escalated into a riot; the police protection promised to the permitted protestors was woefully inadequate and many police reportedly left the area on stand-down orders from command. The Antifas were surprised because they generally pick on elderly protestors who don't put up much of a fight. The bubbas were better prepared and gave these bozo anarchists a pretty good whoopin'. Good on 'em, as they say in the South.

A mom-beating, Hillary-loving jerk ... (more >>>)

Book Review: 'The Devil's Mercedes: The Bizarre and Disturbing Adventures of Hitler's Limousine in America' by Robert Klara

You know how you go to a party and there's a sudden lull as conversations halt when everyone seems to run out of stuff to say? Here's a way to liven things up: Just ask, "Did you know that Howdy Doody was once in Hitler's car?" More on that later.

I had low expectations for this book. A story about Adolf Hitler's Mercedes seemed more suitable for a magazine article than a 350-plus page book. But author Klara is an excellent storyteller and manages to flesh out the pages quite well.

The 20-foot long, 10,000 pound Mercedes-Benz 770K armored open touring car, also known as a Großer Mercedes, is an interesting car unto itself. It had a 467 cubic-inch straight eight engine with a supercharger loud enough to wake the dead. The beast rode on a 153-inch wheelbase and was a truck-like 81 inches wide. These open cars were favorites of the Nazi high command and there are several photos of Hitler riding in one.

The build quality on these automobiles must be seen to be believed. Twenty-five years ago ... (more >>>)

Elvis Has Now Been Dead For Over 40 Years: The King of Rock and Roll died on August 16, 1977.

I'll never forget where I was when I heard that Elvis Presley was dead. I was driving along the Eisenhower Expressway in Chicago when the news came over the car radio. I had just finished a business meeting in the Windy City and was headed to northwestern Indiana for an overnight stay and another meeting the following day. I was piloting a rented Buick Century sedan and was wearing a three-piece gray suit with a button-down pink shirt and maroon club tie. I don't know why I remember all these details but they are embedded in my brain like a virus-laden Microsoft patch.

Anyway, I left the radio on, because the news was still unsubstantiated. His death was later confirmed with an announcement originating from Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis - before I even got to the Illinois-Indiana state line.

That night, I watched the 11:00 pm news in a depressingly dark motel room and saw a old b&w clip of a young Elvis performing 'Ready Teddy' on The Ed Sullivan Show. I had viewed that very show when it originally aired ... (more >>>)

Quote Of The Day is from Henry Ford: "If you love an idea, that is good. If you have ideas as to how to work it out, that is better."


Tuesday August 15, 2017

Caddy Consolidation: Johan de Nysschen, head of Cadillac, said that the brand will shrink its lineup of sedans and expand its offerings of sport utility vehicles, adding hybrid and electric vehicles as well, in response to market shifts. It's about time.

Expanding Cadillac's global sales is central to GM's overall profit strategy, and Cadillac has reported an impressive "27% increase in worldwide sales through the first half of the year." Most of that growth comes from China, Caddy's biggest market. In its second-largest market, the U.S., "sales are down 1.6% and combined sales of the brand's four sedan models have plummeted 16.3% through the first half of the year." And so, Caddy's portfolio of offerings must be rebalanced to match current buying habits.

"Cadillac will not directly replace the current XTS, CTS or ATS sedans when they end their life cycles in 2019, he said. Instead, Cadillac will use a single new car called the CT5 to appeal to consumers shopping for sedans priced between $35,000 and $45,000. New versions of the CT6 sedan will be offered to customers who want a larger car starting at $50,000."

Cadillac will offer more SUVs, starting with a compact model called XT4 (an unexciting name to be sure), followed by a larger SUV with three rows of seats due by 2019 to compete with vehicles such as Volvo's current XC90 model.

I wish Cadillac would return to some of its old monikers - DeVille, Eldorado, Biarritz, Seville, Fleetwood, Elegante, Brougham, Calais, etc.

Sunless Saturday: Since it was going to rain - for the first time in two months - on Sunday, I decided to take a drive in my '39 Plymouth coupe on Saturday morning. At 9:00 am, it was 60 degrees and overcast with a few stingy rays of sun here and there.

I had a peaceful excursion along mostly-empty roads but, to the south, the clouds were quite dark and it looked like rain was coming any minute. But it didn't and I arrived back home on dry pavement. I have to keep reminding myself that we have cloudy and/or rainy days every August. There has been such a run of good weather lately that I'd forgotten about the variability of summer weather in the Pacific Northwest.

Unprepared: Last week, Conrad Black wrote "Senator McConnell's statement ... that Trump was responsible for the almost total failure of the Republican Congress to achieve anything in the past six months was just more self-serving claptrap from a familiar and very tiresome source." McConnell's excuses are as phony as The Dog Ate My Homework.

Congress had seven long years to come up with an alternative to Obamacare. The claim is that they didn't do so because they didn't think Trump would win the election. This makes no sense. It seems more logical that they never came up with a plan because they didn't think any Republican would win the 2016 election. If so, this demonstrates how out-of-touch these Beltway boys and girls really are.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do: Al Gore's home devours 34 times more electricity than the average U.S. home.

"In just this past year, Gore burned through enough energy to power the typical American household for more than 21 years, according to a new report by the National Center for Public Policy Research. The former vice president consumed 230,889 kilowatt hours (kWh) at his Nashville residence, which includes his home, pool and driveway entry gate electricity meters. A typical family uses an average of 10,812 kWh of electricity per year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

It gets worse. Last September alone, Gore devoured 30,993 kWh of electricity. That's enough to power 34 average American homes for a month. Over the last 12 months, Gore used more electricity just heating his outdoor swimming pool than six typical homes use in a year."

"Dying Is Easy. Comedy Is Hard." So said Alan Swann, Peter O'Toole's swashbuckling character in the 1982 movie, 'My Favorite Year'.

'My Favorite Year' is one of my favorite movies. It is a light romantic comedy about the behind-the-scenes at a 1950s TV variety-comedy show (think Sid Ceasar's 'Your Show Of Shows'), in which O'Toole played an aging, drunken action film star reminiscent of Errol Flynn.

Joseph Bologna portrayed the overbearing, mercurial Sid Caesar-based character, King Kaiser, in the same film. He delivered a very funny, over-the-top performance. Mr. Bologna has died at age 82 from pancreatic cancer. Rest in Peace.

"Dynomite!" Former 'Good Times' star Jimmie Walker supports President Trump: "I'm for probably 90% of the things he does."

"There's not one positive Trump joke out here,” he explained. “No President has been attacked in recent years - because you couldn't attack Obama because he was black… but Trump, they have come out guns blazing against him, but even though I don't like everything he does, why, heck, darn it, I think he deserves some sort of praise … but you can't say that in Hollywood."

Question Of The Day: Are Eskimo Pies considered an ethnic food?


Friday August 11, 2017

Summertime ... And The Cruisin' Is Easy: At 9:45 am Thursday, the temperature was a comfortable 68 degrees (it rose to 93 degrees in the afternoon), so I fired up my '39 Plymouth business coupe and went for a drive.

The skies were sunny but there was enough wildfire smoke that I couldn't even see Mt. St. Helens. There were no construction delays and some of the roads on my route were practically empty - mine, all mine.

I had a fun ride, playing oldies music through the speakers and listening to the rumble of the Glasspacks.

Rain is forecasted for Sunday, which will - hopefully - clear out some of the haze

1955 Flying Feather
Angular And Ugly: Bollinger Motors unveiled its hideous B1 electric sport utility truck. Looking like an oversized, updated version of Japan's 1955 Flying Feather, the B1 appears to have been styled using an Animal Crackers box, scissors. And Elmer's Glue.

"The B1 is powered by either a 60- or 100-kWh battery pack a and a pair of electric motors providing 360 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque. It's surprisingly quick, doing 0-60 miles per hour in just 4.5 seconds."

"Signs, Signs Everywhere A Sign ..." Recently, James Lileks wrote about an old sign he saw in New York: 'Post No Bills', a frequently-seen sign on walls as well as telephone and electric poles when I was growing up in Philadelphia.

It's about as common as ... (more >>>)

Four Unshakable Trump Truths: Often-wrong progressive economist, globalist and New York Times scribe Thomas L. Friedman doesn't like President Trump one whit but he admits that The Donald is right about some things. Recently, Tom wrote:

"We can't take in every immigrant who wants to come here; we need, metaphorically speaking, a high wall that assures Americans we can control our border with a big gate that lets as many people in legally as we can effectively absorb as citizens.

The Muslim world does have a problem with pluralism - gender pluralism, religious pluralism and intellectual pluralism - and suggesting that terrorism has nothing to do with that fact is naïve; countering violent extremism means constructively engaging with Muslim leaders on this issue.

Americans want a president focused on growing the economic pie, not just redistributing it. We do have a trade problem with China, which has reformed and closed instead of reformed and opened. We have an even bigger problem with automation wiping out middle-skilled work and we need to generate more blue-collar jobs to anchor communities.

Political correctness on college campuses has run ridiculously riot. Americans want leaders to be comfortable expressing patriotism and love of country when globalization is erasing national identities. America is not perfect, but it is, more often than not, a force for good in the world."

Friedman suggested that Democrats need to acknowledge these four issues and respond to them in such a way that makes sense to everyday voters. But they probably won't, given the caustic tenor of the comments below his NYT article.

As an aside, in the midst of this North Korean missile crisis, I'm glad that Donald Trump is at the helm. Imagine Hillary's response. Or Jeb!'s.

Book Review: 'How The Hell Did This Happen: The Election Of 2016' by P.J. O'Rourke

Once upon a time, O'Rourke wrote brilliantly witty books on a variety of subjects. Apparently he no longer does so. Instead, his publisher has released a 256-page compilation of previously-published material about the 2016 presidential primary and election with a few new paragraphs added. This is ... (more >>>)

Thought For Today: Once you're over the hill, you begin to pick up speed.


Wednesday August 9, 2017

Lifeline For Tesla: The California State Assembly passed a $3-billion subsidy program for electric vehicles, dwarfing the existing program. The bill is now in the state Senate. "If passed, it will head to Governor Jerry Brown, who has not yet indicated if he'd sign what is ostensibly an effort to put EV sales into high gear, but below the surface appears to be a Tesla bailout."

Why? Because Tesla will soon hit the limit of the federal tax rebates, which are good for the first 200,000 EVs sold in the US per manufacturer beginning in December 2009. "In the second quarter after the manufacturer hits the limit, the subsidy gets cut in half, from $7,500 to $3,750; two quarters later, it gets cut to $1,875. Two quarters later, it goes to zero."

If you believe Tesla's U.S. sales forecast for its Model 3, it will hit the 200,000 vehicle limit in 2018; by 2019, the subsidies are gone. Removing a $7,500 government subsidy on a $35,000 car is likely a deal-killer for most prospective buyers. And the only Model 3s being delivered at present are the more-expensive, $44,000 long-range models. And, if you want your Model3 in any color but black, you'll have to pay an extra $1,000.

But wait - there's more: "The Enhanced Autopilot package costs an extra $5,000, with full autonomy capability requiring a further $3,000, even though the option (which Musk promises) isn't yet a available. Power adjustable (heated) seats, premium audio, tinted roof glass, and other luxury appointments - many would call them "necessities" - are all bundled into another $5,000 package. Of course, you can also choose to upgrade the wheels to 19-inchers. All told, the Model 3 tops out at $59,500 with every option on board, which still places it below the lowest-rung Model S."

Almost $60 grand for a compact car??!! Take away the subsidy and it's closer to $70,000. Anyone remember ... (more >>>)

Book Run: Monday morning dawned sunny, smoky and hazy - thanks British Columbia wildfires - and by 10:00 am, the temperature had already risen to 69 degrees. I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and headed to the library to return some books and pick up a couple of new ones which I had on reserve. (I no longer browse libraries. They're too noisy and make me crazy. Screaming kids, etc. I peruse their catalog online, reserve what I want and pick up books when they're made available.)

On the way to the library I encountered construction - signs with 'Delays Up To 20 Minutes' messages. I only had to wait five minutes or so: I guess I was lucky.

Afterward, I had a ride along the back roads of Clark County. All was pleasant except for some impatient jerk in a black Porsche 911 who wanted to do 80 on this bumpy, narrow 40 mph road. He tailgated me to no avail then blew past me on a double-yellow line, visibility-restricted road segment. Well, you know what they say about the difference between porcupines and Porsches.

By afternoon, temperatures reached 93 and the smoggy haze remained.

The Man In The Rubber Suit: You may not know his name, but you've probably seen him perform many times. Haruo Nakajima has died at 88. Mr. Nakajima portrayed Godzilla in twelve consecutive films, from ''Godzilla' (1954) to 'Godzilla vs. Gigan' (1972).

He was considered by many to be the best 'suit actor' in the long history of the Godzilla franchise. When his acting career was over, Haruo worked at a job at the studio's bowling alley. Fame is fleeting. RIP.

In related news, recording artist Glen Campbell has died at age 81 from complications of Alzheimer's disease.

In the early 1960s, he was lead guitarist for LA based studio musicians, The Wrecking Crew, and played on recordings by Bobby Darin, Ricky Nelson, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, The Monkees, Nancy Sinatra, Merle Haggard, Jan and Dean, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Phil Spector. Glen also toured as part of The Beach Boys. Listen to the awesome guitar work on 'Viva Las Vegas' - that's Glen Campbell.

Campbell's biggest hits were recordings during the late 1960s and '70s including 'Wichita Lineman', and 'By the Time I Get to Phoenix', 'Gentle On My Mind' and 'Rhinestone Cowboy'. He won multiple Grammys.

He hosted a music and comedy variety show called 'The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour' on CBS television, from 1969 through mid-1972. RIP.

Old New York: Fifty-two years ago this month, my soon to be wife and I visited the New York World's Fair.

I have just revised my 1964-65 New York World's Fair web page with several new photos plus additional explanatory text. Enjoy.

Quote Of The Day is from Jeremy Clarkson: "I don't understand bus lanes. Why do poor people have to get to places quicker than I do?"


Monday August 7, 2017

Sometimes I Think TTAC is Running Out Of Things To Write About: After Murilee Martin asked the same basic question several years ago (and later on AutoBlog), The Truth About Cars wants to know again, "What car do you desire from the year of your birth?"

Because I was born in 1943, the word 'car' must be replaced by 'vehicle', since passenger cars were not produced that year because of World War II.

So, I guess I'll have to choose a 1943 M-4 Sherman Tank with standard rotating turret and 75 mm gun.

Anybody tries to cut me off ... Boom! - you're dead. And then, flattened.

Another Milestone: Speaking of 1943, on Saturday I turned 74. I began my birthday with a celebratory ride in my '39 Plymouth coupe. At 8:10 am, the temperature was a comfortable 58 degrees (by afternoon, it reached 89) and it was quite sunny but hazy.

The haze has been around for several days and is caused by large wildfires in British Columbia. The smoke has drifted into southwest Washington. It was worse on Thursday and Friday with a distinct smoky aroma in the air.

Thanks to my family I had a swell birthday.

"Faster Than A Speeding ...." Elon Musk is a Perfect Dreamer but a less-than-perfect implementer. He makes flawed, government-subsidized electric cars, proposed giant battery plants which have yet to materialize and invents reuseable rocket ships which sometimes blow up.

Now he wants to built a high-speed hyperloop between LA and DC, allowing people to travel across the country in 29 minutes. "The hyperloop would be built underground," says Musk. And just like that, flyover country will become flyunder country.

One might pose the question, "If his rockets occasionally explode and his self-driving cars sometimes malfunction and crash, are you sure you want to step into one of his untested hyper-capsules and travel at 5,000 mph?"

Musk is thinking about using the hyperloop to move Important People from coast-to-coast. You can bet that Jeff Bezos is thinking about a hyperloop to move Important Packages quickly. Think of it as Amazon SuperPrime. Amazon could underwrite a hyperloop between Dongguan City and Seattle, so Bezos can sell Chinese-made crap more rapidly than ever.

Book Review: 'Agent 110: An American Spymaster and the German Resistance in WWII' by Scott Miller

I enjoy reading a good spy novel. Unfortunately, stories about real-life spies often fail to live up to the standard set by novels.

Such is the case with 'Agent 110'. Allen Dulles seems to be ... (more >>>)

It Reads Like A Headline From The Onion: 'Bogus butt doctor in woman's implant death used Dunkin' Donuts as waiting room.' But it's not parody; it's an actual news story from New York City.

"Patients getting work done in the "doctor's" phony medical office in Gramercy Park would wait at a nearby doughnut shop, where a "nurse" would meet them and escort them to the apartment for their silicone injection sessions."

No arrests have been made yet. Police are searching for a woman using the alias Dr. Cruller.

Quote Of The Day is from G. Gordon Liddy: "A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money."


Thursday August 3, 2017

July Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were at a 16.8 million SAAR last month, down 6% from July 2016 and up slightly from last month. Auto sales topped out last year and, after a good run, new sales are sliding downhill. There's also a used car glut. Everyone who wanted a new or used vehicle has already bought it. All those incentives, lease deals and cheap, long-term loans can't significantly change things.

U.S. carmakers continued to slash low-margin sales to daily rental fleets in July as General Motors, Ford and Fiat-Chrysler struggled to curb a slide in retail sales. Automakers this year have been deliberately dialing back sales to rental-car companies, which often generate little to no profit.

July is the fifth straight month in which the annual pace of auto sales declined from the same month a year ago. The biggest problem - lack of sales in the 'car' segment of the vehicle market - is not going away anytime soon. Timothy Cain reported that mid-size sedan sales fell 20% year-over-year in July. Hyundai Sonata sales dropped almost 50%.

GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler have cautioned that second-half financial results are likely to be lower than first-half results, in part reflecting production cuts in North America and pricing pressures. Industry consultant LMC cut its full-year forecast for new vehicle sales to 17 million vehicles. Automakers sold a record 17.55 million vehicles in the United States in 2016.

In July, pickup truck sales fell 4%, led by declines of the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra. Ford's F-Series sales increased 6% and Toyota's Tacoma increased 5%. Ram sales were flat year-over-year.

FoMoCo's July sales dipped 8% to 200,212 vehicles, as it cut fleet sales more than 26%. Inventories fell to 77 days from 79 the previous month. Passenger car sales fell 19% for the month of July. Ford's retail sales were down only 1%. Ford's Fusion suffered a big 42% sales drop, while the sporty Mustang fell 35%. Truck sales comprised just over 40% of all Ford-brand sales in July, and the F-Series pickups accounted for about 35% of total July sales. Ford's SUV sales rose 3% during the period.

Sales of the Lincoln brand fell by 3% year-over-year to 8,875 vehicles in July as sales of Lincoln cars rose 3%, primarily on sales strength for the all-new Lincoln Continental (958 sedans).

General Motors sales dropped 15% from a year ago to 226,107 vehicles, as the company cut rental fleet sales more than 80%. The automaker said inventories of unsold vehicles at month's end were 104 days, down from 105 days at the end of June. And The General is bragging about this?!

Buick sales fell an alarming 30%. Buick LaCrosse sales went off the proverbial cliff - down 56%. The three crossover models, Encore, Envision and Enclave, made up 85% of Buick's total sales. Cadillac sales declined 22% overall; CTS sales steeply declined - dropping 40%. Chevrolet sales slid 15% in July. Chevy's Impala fell a whopping 40% while the rental-car star Malibu fell 11%. Nobody's buying sedans these days. Or coupes.

At Fiat-Chrysler, year-over-year, sales dropped 10% to 161,477 units. The Jeep brand posted a sales drop of 12%, as the Jeep Patriot showed a sales decline of 70% and the Cherokee posted a sales drop of 23%. Grand Cherokee sales rose 14% and Compass sales increased by 8%. FCA continues to implement a strategy of reducing sales to daily rental car companies. Rental sales were down 35% year over year. Retail sales fell 6% year-over-year and represented 90% of all unit sales. Ram pickup sales were flat in July at 39,708 units.

Sales of the company’s Chrysler brand dropped 30% to 13,303 vehicles as sales of the now-defunct Chrysler 200 fell 65% to 1,899. On the other hand, Chrysler 300 sales rose 31% to 3,090 units. The all-new Pacifica minivan posted July sales of 8,288 (up 5%).

The company's Dodge brand sales fell 12% to 31,264 vehicles, as sales of the Dodge Caravan fell 25% to 7,503 units in the month. The Journey compact sport utility vehicle saw sales rise by 7% year over year to 6,800 units sold in July. Fiat continued its long slide into oblivion with a year-over-year sales drop of 18% in July to 2,244 units. Every Fiat model sold worse this July than last; the chubby 500X CUV suffered the biggest drop.

Toyota reported a year-to-year gain, with sales up 4% to 222,057 - just 4,000 units behind GM. Corolla sedan sales were down 16%, while Prius sales fell 26% to 9,384 hybrids. Avalon sales declined 24% to 2,859 units. These numbers help illustrate the sad state of cars these days. That's why so many automakers are considering consolidation of their sedan/coupe models and expansion of their soccer-mom-oriented compact utility vehicles.

Honda sales were down 1% to 150,980. Sales of the popular CR-V fell 12% to 31,761 utes. The Civic was the best seller with 36,683 car sales, with the Accord at 30,903 units. Nissan sales fell 3% to 128,295.

Hyundai sales fell 30% while the more handsome Kia fell 6%. In the past, most Hyundai-Kia customers were price buyers and, when the company raised prices to Toyota/Honda levels, many prospects lost interest. H-K sales totaled 110,106 for the month.

Volkswagen sales were down 6%; the Passat sedan fell 22%. Subaru sales continue to climb - up 7% to 56,703 vehicles.

Mercedes-Benz sales were flat with 28,667 Mercs finding buyers in July. Lexus sales were up 4% to 28,902 units. Only 402 LS flagship sedans were sold in July, while 313 examples of the pricey LC coupe found buyers. BMW sales declined 15% last month to 21,965 vehicles. Audi sales increased 3% to 18,824 vehicles. About half of Audi's sales are SUVs. Sales of the Infiniti brand were up 9% to 10,840 units Acura sales were up 4% to 14,177 vehicles; 72% were SUVs. Jaguar sold 3,166 vehicles, a decline of 7%. 155 Bentleys found buyers - a drop of 6% from last July.

Only 182 Smart cars were sold in July - a drop of over 63% from last year. Smart only offers all-electric vehicles these days; therefore, it should be noted that - on a monthly basis - E-Z Go golf carts outsells Smarts by about 25-fold. I'm just sayin' ...

Verdict: Cash For Clunkers Was A Disaster. Three economists have crunched the numbers and discovered that Obama's Cash-for-Clunkers scheme back in 2009 was a failure even by Keynesian standards.

"The 2009 Cash for Clunkers program aimed to stimulate consumer spending in the new automobile industry, which was experiencing disproportionate reductions in demand and employment during the Great Recession. Exploiting program eligibility criteria in a regression discontinuity design, we show nearly 60% of the subsidies went to households who would have purchased during the two-month program anyway; the rest accelerated sales by no more than eight months. Moreover, the program's fuel efficiency restrictions shifted purchases toward vehicles that cost on average $5,000 less. On net, Cash for Clunkers significantly reduced total new vehicle spending over the ten month period."

Muy Caliente! Knowing that Wednesday was gonna be a scorcher (temperatures reached 105 degrees by afternoon), I took an old car ride early in the morning. At 8:10, I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe, while the temperature was in the upper 60s. Although there was bunched up traffic here and there, I managed to avoid most of it. The sky had that hazy blue 'it's-gonna-be-hot' look about it. All the clouds were hiding somewhere where things were cooler. Anchorage, perhaps.

In related hot-weather news, Portland's TriMet Max light rail system can't handle heat. Whenever the temperature reaches 90 degrees, the trains slow down.

TriMet claims it's a "normal safety precaution." The light-rail system was built to run "in a mild climate with an average high of 55 degrees." When things get hot in the summer (Portland routinely experiences temperatures in the 90s every year), riders "should expect delays as TriMet reduces train speeds by 10 mph for all areas with a speed limit above 35 mph."

"TriMet is worried about copper overhead wires sagging. Since copper expands more than steel, the Max system incorporates pulleys with counterweights that tug on the wires to keep them tight. Sometimes, TriMet engineers say, things get so hot that the counterweights touch the ground and the wire starts to sag anyway." Who designed this thing anyway - the guy who did the specs for Galloping Gertie, the infamous bridge in Tacoma?

I have a ... (more >>>)

NAFTA Takedown In 99 Words: A poster with the handle Sseigmund offered a succinct assessment of what the North American Free Trade Agreement hath wrought: "I always find it fascinating to visit San Diego, CA, one of my favorite American cities and look over the river at Tijuana. On one side of the river (is) a shining gem of wealth, prosperity and military might, and on the other (is) a polluted, poor, crime-ridden shithole. It doesn't seem that 23 years of NAFTA has done much to bring the average Mexican to parity with the average American, but it's hard to ignore what NAFTA has done to a lot of U.S. manufacturing towns.

Maybe the idea was always to bring America down to the level of Mexico."

Quote Of The Day is from George Bernard Shaw: "A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul."


Tuesday August 1, 2017

FutureWorld: In mid-June, the print edition of The Wall Street Journal contained a special section titled 'Future of Transportation' with contributions and quotable predictions by experts.

Naturally, there was an article titled: 'The Future Of U.S. Train Travel'. Alex Trebek might have said, "This one is 'dismal'." Or: "The category is 'Subsidies'." Of course, the article was generally more positive than that with talk of Japanese-style bullet trains, Mag-Lev, Hyperloop and other expensive improbables, financed by "public-private partnerships." Good luck with that. Passenger trains in the U.S. have been money losers for over 70 years. Therefore, I personally believe that the future is Amtrak but with an even more run-down infrastructure.

I've made numerous postings about rail travel here.

And now ... on to automobiles: The WSJ's headline 'The End of Car Ownership' posited that "ride-sharing and self-driving vehicles are going to redefine our relationships with cars." There was an illustration in which all the cars have ... (more >>>)

All Summer Long: As The Beach Boys used to sing, "Won't be long 'til summer time is through. ... We've been having fun all summer long." And I have been so far, taking lots of old car drives.

Following a positive report from my oncologist, I hopped in my '39 Plymouth coupe as soon as I returned home last Friday. At 11:30 am, the temperature was a most comfortable 67 degrees and the clouds looked like a class project at some Celestial Kindergarten, using several enormous cotton balls glued to a monstrous sheet of pale blue construction paper with humongous dollops of Elmer's glue. I had a very nice drive. By mid-afternoon, temperatures reached 81 degrees.

On Saturday morning, at 7:45 am, I took another drive in my ancient coupe. It was 57 degrees outside and the roads were practically empty. The blue sky was cloudless with a little morning haze at the edges. I spent part of the day giving my Plymouth a much-needed washing - no dirt, just two years of dust. (I hadn't felt up to the task until this year.)

On Monday, I took another ride - through Battle Ground, past Tukes Mountain and down along some back country roads. At 9;30 am, the temperature was 66 degrees - by afternoon, it reached 92. As usual, the Plymouth ran well and I enjoyed the sunny summer weather.

Forecasts are for a hot early August, with temperatures reaching 107 degrees on Wednesday and 110 degrees on Thursday. Now that's hot - California desert hot!

Cancer Update: Last week, I visited the Oncology Center for a test, which measures cancer markers - carcinoembryonic antigen - in the blood. Mine is now 1.0, which remains within normal range (0-5.0 µg/L according to my oncologist) and is lower than my last test.

Here are my test results ... (more >>>)

Facile Verbosity: The Zman wrote, "We make judgments about one another based on our writing skills. It's why gold-plated phonies like George Will can pass themselves off as deep thinkers." Georgie Will is the man standing at the corner of Prolix Avenue and Ponce Street.

How's The President Doing? Just fine, thanks. Pay no attention to media hysterics, fake news and endless rumors. Gerard Van der Leun has posted a list of 220 things president Thump has accomplished during his first six months in office. With or without Congress' help, he's Making America Great Again.

Book Review: 'The President Will See You Now: My Stories and Lessons from Ronald Reagan's Final Years' by Peggy Grande

This 262-page book is exactly as the title promises, with lots of good stories. Peggy Grande, Ronald Reagan's longtime personal assistant, worked closely ... (more >>>)

Quote Of The Day is from Winston Churchill: "I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle"


Car Blog Disclaimer

This blog, The View Through The Windshield, 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. I'll dutifully report my test impressions on this car blog.

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 2017 - Joseph M. Sherlock - All applicable rights reserved


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