A Blog About Cars ... And More
Monday February 19, 2018
Poster Child: My son Joe, who - in addition to his many artistic talents and achievements - makes a nice living as a graphic designer, surprised me by using my '39 Plymouth coupe in a poster he designed for an upcoming car show:
It looks awesome! Thanks, Joe. (permalink)
Fewer Toys; Higher Prices: Maz Wooley of Model Auto Review recently attended a commercial toy fair in Europe and concluded that "the area devoted to model vehicles gets smaller each year. Many manufacturers or agents cannot afford to exhibit, so they invite buyers to see them at other sites outside the halls whilst the fair is on. The large number of companies selling model vehicles gives the impression of a growing and thriving industry, but the days when Corgi and Dinky sold millions of a single casting are long gone, and even large industrial firms can now only sell individual models in thousands, whilst specialist firms produce batches of fewer than a hundred models.
So the industry is making the most of a declining customer base, that has accepted some significant price rises in the last year. But this situation is not sustainable in the long term, unless new buyers, especially younger people, begin to collect. But there seems to be little evidence that they are doing so in significant numbers."
Over the past several years ... (more >>>)
Get Real: Auto analyst Neil Winton recently wrote that "autonomous car hype is way ahead of reality."
"The problem is that despite hugely impressive gains in autonomous technology, the last percentage points of progress towards 100% reliability are proving almost impossible to achieve. Other more prosaic hurdles loom too, like regulation, insurance, legal liability, and the almost impossible moral and ethical decisions that need to be taken by the car's artificial intelligence system in the event of a crash, whether to mow down the line of children, pensioners or self-sacrifice into the wall." Indeed.
Buh-Bye: Illegal immigrants have threatened to leave if Congress doesn't pass DACA bill.
Don Surber quipped, "Oh, how will America fill its need for entitled, self-righteous twenty-somethings? Thank goodness the Kennedy Clan keeps procreating."
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas A. Edison: "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
Thursday February 15, 2018
"Thickly-Cushioned Luxury Of Seats Covered In Rich Corinthian Leather": Recently, Mac's Motor City Garage published an article about the mid-1970s Chrysler Cordoba, proclaimed as The Car That Saved Chrysler.
First, a bit of history: The phrase Personal Luxury Coupe was unheard of in 1956. The name developed shortly after the wildly-successful four-seat Thunderbird arrived for the 1958 model year. General Motors management took notice and eventually entered the market segment with the 1963 Buick Riviera.
Later, Chevrolet decided to get a piece of the personal luxury coupe action with the 1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
What eventually became the Chrysler Cordoba was originally planned as Plymouth's personal luxury coupe - its answer to the popular Monte Carlo. Chrysler management decided to make it a more upscale Chrysler model after experiencing alarming ... (more >>>)
Fill Er Up, Comrade: Eric Peters recently wrote that California Governor Jerry Brown has decreed "the erection of 250,000 electric vehicle charging stations across the state at a cost of $2.5 billion."
Peters observed, "It was never necessary to decree the erection of gas stations because there's money to be made selling gas to people who freely wish to purchase it at market price.
The government of California is getting into the "business" of using funds extracted from the people of California, in order to erect state-owned recharging stations to further subsidize state-mandated electric cars.
The Soviet Union didn't disappear back in 1989. It moved West."
Wintry Excursion: On Tuesday afternoon, it was a mere 45 degrees at 1:00 pm. Nevertheless, the weather was gorgeous - brilliantly sunny with nary a cloud in the sky. There were clear views of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens. So I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and went for a drive.
Traffic was quite light and I had a good time traveling on north county's back roads loop.
Good thing I took a drive when I did. It snowed overnight.
Appropriate Vanity Plate: A 40-year-old driver was arrested in Bellevue, WA after he rear-ended another car at a carwash, pulled a gun, shouted racial slurs, locked himself inside his car and punched a police officer in the face.
He was driving a red Camaro with a Washington license plate which read 'DIRTBAG'.
Hooters In Space ... I like that idea. President Trump wants to turn the International Space Station into a commercial venture run by private industry.
As long as it's not Ruby Tuesday.
Social Media Black Market: Everyone wants to appear popular. Even on Twitter. A New York Times investigation revealed that many celebrities, business leaders and athletes bought their own followers. In other cases, the purchases were made by their employees, agents, family members or other associates.
Dave Burge noted that "buying Twitter followers is the 21st Century equivalent of stuffing a potato in your Speedo." He later added, "Please note: potato goes in front."
Book Review: 'God: A Human History' by Reza Aslan
In 171 pages (with many more pages of footnotes at the end), Aslan explores the history of worship, demonstrating that humans seem to be hardwired to believe in a supreme being (or many of them) and that even early humans ceremoniously buried their dead with the expectation of an afterlife.
The author was raised as a ... (more >>>)
A Doctor Once Told Me, "Too Much Sliced Cheese Can Kill Ya." I guess he was right. A German man apparently suffered "an autoerotic death covered himself with sliced cheese, pulled pantyhose over his upper body, put on a raincoat and a diving suit and then sat down with a plastic bag over his head in front of a heater that was switched on."
I think one or two slices on a cheeseburger is OK - moderation is the key.
Quote Of The Day is from Camille Paglia: "Why has the Democratic Party become so arrogantly detached from ordinary Americans? Though they claim to speak for the poor and dispossessed, Democrats have increasingly become the party of an upper-middle-class professional elite, top-heavy with journalists, academics and lawyers."
Tuesday February 13, 2018
'Bullitt' - The Movie ... And More: Recently, Jack Baruth at The Truth About Cars favorably reviewed the classic 1968 movie, 'Bullitt' - the one with the spectacular CGI-free, 10-minute car chase.
In addition to the awesome chase sequence, I enjoyed the movie on its own merits. The scenes were period-realistic, the characters were believable, and the acting was excellent. The casting seemed perfect. Robert Vaughn was well suited to play the oily and ambitious district attorney, Walter Chalmers. His two unnamed and uncredited butt-boy assistants looked like they were former fraternity members at Faber College's snooty Omega Theta Pi fraternity. They could have been roomies with Greg Marmalard.
Jaqueline Bisset made the perfect architect girlfriend for Lieutenant Frank Bullitt. Although Vic Tayback's part is small, he was a more believable mob boss than as diner owner in TV's 'Alice'. Norman Fell, best known as the hapless Mr. Roper on 'Three's Company', played the consummate prick, Captain Baker, while Simon Oakland was cast as Bullitt's gruff boss, Captain Sam Bennett.
Steve McQueen had quite a bit of input on the film since ... (more >>>)
For The Few Poor Souls Who Will Buy Them: All 2018 Fiat 500s will now have turbo engines, making 135 horsepower from the little 1.4 liter mill. Now they can outrun squirrels.
The View From The Back Deck: It has been an interesting time lately, since the city of Battle Ground is tearing up the golf course behind our house in order to construct a sewer line connecting to a new development about a mile south of us.
Our neighborhood already has ... (more >>>)
No Longer Living On That Street: Crooner Vic Damone has died at age 89. In 1956, Damone's 'On the Street Where You Live' hit number 4 on the pop music charts.
Once declared by Frank Sinatra to have the "the best pipes in the business," Vic was part of the golden age of lounge singers who achieved pop fame after World War II, including Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Andy Williams and Perry Como. RIP.
Head-Line Of The Week … is from Reuters: 'Head held high, Kim's sister returns to North Korea'. Dave Burge asked, "Whose head was it?"
Wrap Rage: Recently, James Lileks ranted about wax paper "which is useless because it doesn't want to stay folded. It could not care less about staying folded, and indeed, unfolds before your eyes with an indolent insouciance, like a beatnik putting his feet up on the table in a nice house.
If I get the order of these things correct, it was Wax Paper, then Cellophane, then Cling Wrap. Cellophane was modern and new - you could see right through it! Only trust bread that's wrapped in Cellophane! - but it crinkled and was utterly uninterested in staying folded; asking it to stay folded was like asking a puppy to sit and stay.”
Then there's Cling Wrap: "I think everyone hates Cling Wrap. The first thing it does is seek out its own, and it's like a Band-Aid that gets stuck to itself - it's never quite the same."
Question Of The Day is from Tom McMahon: "Do Street Gangs Use TurfBuilder?"
Friday February 9, 2018
Digging A Bigger Hole: One-third of trade-ins in a new-car deal are underwater on their loans. Add that to the lengthened loan terms, and car buyers rolling loan balances over get deeper in debt with each purchase.
"Buyers financed roughly 86% percent of new car purchases last year, 43.5% of buyers brought a trade-in, and Edmunds reports that nearly one-third of those trade-ins were underwater. The lowest recent percentage of underwater loans was 13.9% in 2009, when lenders were tending their mortgage burns. The highest recent number - before the last few years - was in 2006, when 29.2% of auto trade-ins swam with the fishes. Bloomberg found that even as auto sales contracted last year, the auto loan market grew because banks and finance companies opened the vaults to riskier borrowers to keep revenue targets on track."
The British politician Denis Healey is credited with the First Law of Holes: "If you're in one, stop digging."
Monumental Monster: Speaking of holes, Big Brutus has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Billed as the largest electric shovel in the world today, big doesn't begin to describe Brutus. On the flats of southeastern Kansas it stands out for miles.
The Bucyrus-Erie electric dragline shovel "was built in 1962 (at a cost of $6.5 million, or about $51.6 million in today's dollars) for the Pittsburg & Midway Coal Mining Company's strip-mining operation in West Mineral, Kansas. What it lacked ... (more >>>)
Speaking Of Holes, Part III: Tesla reported fourth quarter 2017 losses of $619 million on sales of 29,967 vehicles. That's a loss of almost $77,000 for each and every vehicle sold.
"In Q4, Tesla delivered 28,425 Model S and Model X vehicles and 1,542 Model 3 vehicles, totaling 29,967 deliveries."
I'll be interested to see Tesla try and dig its way outta this one.
An Idea So Stupid You Have To Wonder If They Were All Drunk: A prestigious scientific panel has recommended that states significantly lower their drunken driving thresholds as part of a blueprint to eliminate the "entirely preventable" 10,000 alcohol-impaired driving deaths in the United States each year.
"The U.S. government-commissioned, 489-page report by a panel of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released Wednesday throws the weight of the scientific body behind lowering the blood-alcohol concentration threshold from 0.08 to 0.05." Which is idiotic.
Karl Denninger wrote, "Most people who are involved in serious alcohol-related accidents are hammered. They're not a bit over, they're double or more the legal limit. 0.05 is going to put virtually every woman over after two drinks, where most non-overweight men will be as well."
Radley Balko produced the data, noting that when "two-thirds of alcohol-related traffic fatalities involve blood-alcohol levels of .14 and above, and the average fatal accident occurs at .17. ... It's like lowering the speed limit from 65 to 60 to catch people who drive 100 miles per hour."
The U.S. Government Accountability Office reviewed all the statistical data and concluded "the evidence does not conclusively establish that .08 BAC laws by themselves result in reductions in the number and severity of crashes involving alcohol."
Today Is National Pizza Day: I'm going to have one for dinner tonight. With a good Chianti.
A Forever Stamp Is A Good Investment … but I dunno about the other. Dave Burge tweeted, "I found an extra $1.50 in my paycheck! I'm going to buy a postage stamp and a controlling interest in Newsweek magazine."
History Repeats Itself: Gregory Sullivan of Sippican Cottage once wrote that the government purchased land at Ned's Point in Mattapoisett (MA) for $240 in 1835.
Then, the United States Lighthouse Service (an agency which was made part of the U.S. Coast Guard in 1939) "built a 35 foot tower with a - get this - whale oil lantern on top. Well, it was better than fireflies, I guess. Mattapoistett is right down the street, er, I mean coast, from New Bedford, so the whale oil lamp no doubt kept many whaling ships from running aground here so they could continue to supply the whale oil lighthouse with oil to keep the light burning to keep the whaling ships from running aground when getting the whale oil to supply the lantern that kept the whale ..."
Gergory concluded, "I see a pattern developing. See: ethanol."
Thought For Today: If you lined up all the cars in the world end-to-end, someone would be stupid enough to try to pass them.
Wednesday February 7, 2018
Get It While You Can: Rain-free skies are a relative rarity in the Pacific Northwest this time of year. After a few rain-free days, the sun popped out late yesterday morning. I had earlier driven the Lexus to town, gassed it up and ran it through an automatic car wash with a little drying and detailing afterwards by yours truly.
At 11:40 am, the temperature was a reasonable 50 degrees, so I fired up my '39 Plymouth business coupe and took it for a spin along the back roads of unincorporated Battle Ground. Traffic was very light - at times I had the road entirely to myself. There were lots of heavy clouds mixed with patches of blue sky and sun. Most of Mt. St. Helens was in the clouds but there are enough fir trees in the area that I saw lots of greenery along my driving loop.
The car ran perfectly; I hope to get some more drives in soon - weather permitting.
Anyone Else Remember The Lister Jag? Jaguar-powered Listers were the coolest British racing cars of the 1950s, in my opinion. I've only seen one in person - at a private museum in the Seattle area.
Now, Lister is back with a limited edition (99 examples) Lister Thunder, a 666 horsepower, 208 mph beast based on the Jaguar F-Type coupe.
Bring money - each is priced at $200,000.
As Language Evolves: Courtesy of the blog, Formula-s, here are some important new words you should learn:
There are many more posted here.
Will It Be An All-You-Can-Eat Buffet? With A Dessert Table? Princeton University is hosting a "fat positive dinner" for students who self-identify as "fat." "This space is intended for fat identified people to share their experiences as a fat person at Princeton in an accepting and supportive environment," according to a school newsletter.
In related news, an upcoming course at Oregon State University entitled "Fat Studies" makes the case that "weightism" is a civil rights issue, making it harder for overweight Americans to get ahead.
As Eric Cartman said, "I'm not fat. I'm just big-boned."
I Never Watched It The First Time Around: CBS has announced it's bringing 'Murphy Brown' back to television this Fall with Candice Bergen reprising her title role. Dave Burge tweeted that it's "sure to score boffo Nielsens in the assisted living center dementia ward demographic. … It's like Matlock for elderly cat lady McGovern campaign volunteers."
Book Review: 'The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote' by Sharyl Attkisson
If you're interested in the inside skinny on political dirty tricks, this is the book for you. Smear tactics have been in use for ages but, in today's world, the process has been organized, optimized, streamlined and supercharged. It helps that many of today's journalists are lazy, careless and have a liberal bias. The result: easily-implanted Fake News delivered to content-hungry journalists by professional sleazeballs hiding behind political PACs and LLCs.
In this 285-page book, Attkisson exposes ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Steven Wright: "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple of payments."
Monday February 5, 2018
January Vehicle Sales: Ever buy a car in January? Not me. Nor any of my friends either. Nevertheless, somebody's buying cars in January - light vehicle sales were estimated at a 17.1 million SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate) last month, down more than 1% from January 2017, and down 4% from last month. There continue to be indications that incentives, which averaged $3,733 per vehicle in January and set an all-time high for the month, are propping up the market. Incentives have reached roughly 10% of a typical MSRP and that's far too high to be healthy. Automakers and dealers inventories are growing - another troubling sign.
General Motors posted U.S. January sales of 198,548 vehicles, an increase of 1% compared with January 2017 - 24% of all sales went to fleet buyers. GM had 94 days worth of inventory at the end of the month, up from 53 days in December.
Sales of the company's top-selling Silverado pickup jumped by 15% year over year to 40,716 units, while GMC Sierra sales fell 18% to 11,224 units. GMC overall sales declined by 11% last month. Total Chevrolet deliveries in January increased by 5% to 141,947 units. The Chevy Equinox sport utility vehicle posted a sales increase of 50% in January, while the Impala full-size car saw a sales drop of 47%. The Equinox is Chevy's second-best selling vehicle, behind Silverado.
Buick brand sales rose 4%. The Buick LaCrosse posted a sales gain of 130%, and Envision sales rose 14%. Cadillac sales fell by 4% in January to 9,895 units.
Ford Motor Co. monthly sales fell 7% to 161,143 Ford and Lincoln vehicles. Passenger car sales fell 23% in the month and SUV sales fell 6%. Truck sales rose 2% for the month; sales of the Ford F-Series pickups increased 2% to 58,937 trucks. F-Series transaction prices rose $1,400 year-over-year to $47,800. Truck sales comprised 46% of all Ford-brand sales in January. Ford reported 108 days of total inventory, up from 68 in December. Ford fleet sales now account for 29% of total sales.
Total Ford SUV sales fell by 4%, with the Escape seeing a drop of 8% and Expedition a drop of 15%. Passenger car sales dropped by 22%, with sales of Fusion down 33% and Focus down 31%.
Sales of the Lincoln brand slipped 27% as sales of Lincoln cars plummeted 39%. Car sales totaled 1,991 units in the month and utility vehicle sales totaled 4,419 units - a drop of 20%. Sales of the Continental dropped 30% to 815 sedans, while Navigator sales jumped 98%.
Fiat-Chrysler January sales plunged 13% year-over-year to 132,803 vehicles. The Jeep brand posted a sales increase of 2% as sales of the all-new Compass compact utility soared 222% to more than 10,000 units. The Jeep Patriot showed a sales decline of 97%, and the Renegade posted a sales drop of 29%. Grand Cherokee sales fell 5%, while Cherokee sales rose 16%.
Ram truck sales declined 16%, Dodge sales fell 31% to 27,600 vehicles and the Chrysler nameplate dropped 21% to 10,584 vehicles. Twenty-five years ago, Chrysler was selling 60% more units.
Sales of the Fiat brand continued its downward spiral, after a catastrophic drop in 2017. Fiat sold only 1,229 cars last month, down 43% from last January. Fiat sales were crushed across almost its entire model line. Fiat had hoped its entry into the small sports car market, the Spider, would boost overall sales But, alas January sales were a dismal 183 cars - a drop of 24%. On a brighter note, Alfa Romeo sold 1,648 vehicles in January.
Toyota reported January 2018 sales of 167,056 vehicles, an increase of 17% from last year. Camry sales were up 21% to 24,638 sedans, while Avalon sales rose 39% to 3,481 sedans. Lexus posted sales of 17,914 vehicles, a 15% increase overall. Only 116 LS sedans found buyers (a drop of 59%), while 176 LC coupes were sold in January.
American Honda reported January sales of 104,542 Honda and Acura vehicles, a decline of 2% from January 2017. Pilot sales jumped 62% to 11,619 SUVs, while CR-V sales tumbled 17% to 24,325 utes. Acura sales declined 3% in January to 8,908 vehicles. Acura sold 34 NSX sports cars in January.
Nissan sales were down 12% and almost one-third of their vehicles went to fleets. Mazda rose 15% to 24,962 vehicles. Hyundai was down by 11% as was the now stand-alone Genesis brand, while Kia sales were flat. Subaru sales were up 1% to 44,357 vehicles. Tesla's unofficial sales number leaped 36% to 6,000 electric vehicles. Volkswagen saw a rise of 5%, while Audi's sales increased by 10%. Sales of BMWs increased 5%, while Mercedes-Benz sales were flat. Jaguar sales dipped 11% to 2,604 Kitties. Maserati sold 966 vehicles, an increase of 9%. 160 new Aston Martins found homes in January, as did 157 Bentley vehicles, 112 Rolls-Royces, 100 Ferraris and 79 McLarens.
Last - and least, smart car sales fell 68% to a mere 105 mini-cars.
In Related News ... January vehicle sales in Germany were up 12% to about 270,000 units, the highest level for January in nearly two decades. Sales of diesel-powered cars dropped 17% and that decline is expected to continue.
Automotive Obesity: Several years ago, I wrote about automotive convergence. Small cars are getting larger (due to crash requirements and fatter buyers who need more interior room), while large cars are shrinking (due to better interior packaging efficiency and generally smaller - but more usable - trunks).
Kim du Toit provided examples of automotive bloat, comparing the original Mini with today's fatter version:
The pint-size ... (more >>>)
He-Man Sandwiches: That was the calling card of The Chuckwagon, a small restaurant chain located in the Philadelphia area. This cafeteria-style restaurant offered made-to-order, tall deli-style sandwiches (including pastrami and corned beef), sides, Panama jumbo shrimp, beef stew, and chili. Glass-front, refrigerated cases held ... (more >>>)
Speaking Of Philadelphia ... Hooray for the Eagles, who won their first Super Bowl championship, defeating the Patriots 41-33. The game was exciting, the commercials were yawners, and the half-time show was incomprehensible.
Dossiergate: If you're confused about the Nunes memo and the sprawling swamp conspiracy involving the FBI, DOJ, FISA and the DNC, I suggest you read Mark Steyn's excellent and clarifying article on the subject.
One-sentence summary: The Clinton presidential campaign paid for the Kremlin-aided smear job on Donald Trump before the election - enabled by the FBI, DOJ and probably Obama.
Quote Of The Day is from Warren Buffett: "I try to buy stock in businesses that are so wonderful that an idiot can run them. Because sooner or later, one will."
Thursday February 1, 2018
Brit Car Woes: The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (a very British-sounding moniker, not unlike the Queen's Horsepower and Torque Act) reports that vehicle sales in the United Kingdom fell almost 6% in 2017 to 2.54 million vehicles, the first decline in six years.
As Jimmy Durante Used To Say ... "Everybody's gettin' into da act." Lotus will add an SUV to its lineup by 2022.
Colin Chapman must be spinning in his grave at 6,000 rpm or so.
The Day The Music Died: Almost fifty-nine years later, I still remember the day. I was a sophomore in high school. On February 3, 1959, I heard the news on the morning radio: Richie Valens, Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper had perished in a plane crash. They were quickly declared Rock's First Martyrs.
Every time I hear the phrase The Day The Music Died, I get quite irritated. Because it didn't. I know of no one who piloted his/her Chevrolet to any sort of levee and found it to be without water. The Music didn't die. Because The Music consisted of a ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans: The Battle That Shaped America's Destiny' by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger
Most people think that the War of 1812 concerned battles in DC and around the Chesapeake Bay. Not so. In fact ... (more >>>)
Strawmagedon: California's Democratic majority leader Ian Calderon wants restaurateurs to think long and hard before giving you a straw. He has introduced a bill to stop sit-down restaurants from offering customers straws with their beverages unless they specifically request one. Under the proposed law ... (more >>>)
"There's Somethin' Happenin' Here; What It Is Ain't Exactly Clear ..." One of the nation's most prominent Christian leaders said he fears President Trump is facing a grave domestic threat by forces who want to take over the White House.
"I believe we are in a coup d'etat," Franklin Graham said ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "Right after liberal Democrats, the most dangerous politicians are country club Republicans."
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