A Blog About Cars ... And Much, Much More
Thursday April 23, 2015
Fixer-Upper: You may have noticed that I haven't written much about my old car lately.
I picked up my '39 Plymouth coupe from the repair shop yesterday afternoon after almost four weeks. All of the little mechanical annoyances which have built up over the last several years are now fixed.
The biggest problem was the original 76 year-old radiator which had sprung (another) leak. It had been patched so many times that it was unrepairable. Rather than having a duplicate of the original fabricated, I had a custom radiator made, with a thicker core and more capacity. This improved the cooling substantially.
I also had the leaky gas tank - a problem with the sending unit's gasket - fixed. The original heater core also was also leaking and I had a new one installed. I also had a myriad of other mechanical and electrical nuisances attended to.
The repair bill was high but much less than, say, the first year's depreciation on a new Corvette.
The Plymouth now runs great; I'm glad I picked it up when I did because rain is forecast for the remainder of the week, though the weekend. My old coupe is now resting comfortably in the garage.
Large Luxury Sedans - The S-Class Owns It: In the first quarter of 2015, Mercedes-Benz sold 5,044 S-Class models in the U.S., handily beating out the BMW 7-Series (1,941), Lexus LS (1,848), Porsche Panamera (1,312), Jaguar XJ (1,209) and Audi A8 (1,067).
Sticky Situation: Charles G. Hill passed along a news story about a 27 year-old would-be kidnapper who "grabbed a woman at gunpoint, put her in the trunk of her car, but then could not drive because he didn't know how to shift a manual transmission."
Up until 1988, my plastics manufacturing company had only one forklift truck, a 1955 Hyster, which had a three-on-the-tree manual transmission. Several of our younger employees could not drive it because they didn't know how to work the clutch and shift levers. We referred to them as Automatic Babies.
Shoe Melt: Speaking of sticky situations, yesterday I discovered that the soles of my expensive Ecco shoes, purchased for our 2001 trip to France and Great Britain are melting. They have stained the cedar shoe rack in our closet. The soles are wet and sticky to the touch, even after being given a chance to dry out outdoors in the fresh air. The Eccos are now in the trash.
Our walk-in closet is temperature controlled and the temperature never rises above 73 degrees. I threw them out. I have other shoes, some over 30 years old, which are holding up just fine. My wife's Eccos, purchased for the same trip, fell apart years ago.
I'll never buy anything from Ecco ever again.
Too Smart For Their Own Good: The probability of entering and remaining in an intellectually elite profession such as physician, judge, professor, scientist, corporate executive, etc. increases with IQ to about 133.
"It then falls about 1/3 by 140. By 150 IQ the probability has fallen by 97%! In other words, a significant percentage of people with IQs over 140 are being systematically and, most likely inappropriately, excluded from the population that addresses the biggest problems of our time or who are responsible for assuring the efficient operation of social, scientific, political and economic institutions.
This benefits neither the excluded group nor society in general. For society, it is a horrendous waste of a very valuable resource. For the high IQ person it is a personal tragedy commonly resulting in unrealized social, educational and productive potential."
While our society is very good at measuring IQ, it has never developed methods for measuring common sense or street smarts. My observation is that both seem to decline as Genius Level Intelligence Quotient is attained and surpassed.
75 Years Ago ... the three-hole punch debuted in April, 1940.
Book Review: 'What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions' by Randall Munroe
After all the serious nonfiction I've been reading, it was nice to take a break and read this palate-cleansing book. Munroe's tongue-in-cheek science along with his stick-figure drawings makes for a delightful read. But more than that, the book's fun and knowledge value far exceeded expectations.
Inside you'll find answers to questions such as 'What would happen if the Earth stopped spinning?', 'What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% of the speed of light?', 'How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live?', 'If there was a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last?' and ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Ann Coulter: "There are no Japanese internment camps today. (Although the no-limit blackjack section at Caesar's Palace on a Saturday night comes pretty close.)"
Tuesday April 21, 2015
Even Matthew McConaughey Can't Save It: Sales of the Lincoln MKC, the Ford Escape-related small crossover, have flattened out.
"Its share of the small luxury SUV category is lower than it was during the launch period in the third-quarter of last year. After claiming 9.3% market share last summer, the MKC accelerated to 10.9% in the final three months of 2014. But with five established rivals selling (RDX, Q5, X3, XC60, GLK) more often and Lexus' NX also generating greater interest, the MKC's share in the segment was down to 8.6% in Q1 2015."
In March, Lincoln sold only 2,070 MKCs, while Acura sold 3,963 examples of its RDX model. 3,934 Audi Q5s found buyers in last month.
Ch-ch-changes: Yesterday, both 'Autoblog' and 'The Truth About Cars' got new Editors-in-Chief. That's an odd coincidence; I have no idea what effect these changes will have on either website. Both are daily reads for me. 'Yahoo Autos', which I don't read, also changed editors yesterday.
There are no editorial changes at 'The View Through The Windshield'. I've been running it for almost 11 years, as writer, editor, proprietor and janitor.
Tomorrow Is Earth Day: It's also known by its nickname 'Kwanzaa for White Liberals'.
Remember what the late George Carlin said about this Bullshit Made-Up Holiday, "The planet will be here for a long, long, long time after we're gone, and it will heal itself; it will cleanse itself, because that's what it does. It's a self-correcting system. The air and the water will recover; the earth will be renewed and, if it's true that plastic is not degradable, well, the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new paradigm: the Earth plus plastic!
The Earth doesn't share our prejudice towards plastic. Plastic came out of the Earth. The Earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children. Could be the only reason the Earth allowed us to be spawned from it in the first place. It wanted plastic for itself. Didn't know how to make it. Needed us. Could be the answer to our age-old philosophical question, "Why are we here?" "Plastic!""
Never Mind: On Earth Day, I am always reminded of Gilda Radner's Emily Latella character (on SNL) - who might have said: "What's all this I hear about 'greenhouse gas'? Can't people just hold it in until they go back outside?"
Conversion & Redemption: An ISIS Jihadist has recently converted to Christianity after being left for dead near the Eastern border of Syria where he was finally rescued by Christian missionaries from the region.
"The man miraculously came back to life as he was believed to have died from his wounds. As the man came back to his senses, he reported to priest Hermann Groschlin of the visions he had whilst in the afterlife, an event that profoundly changed the 32 year-old Jihadist and eventually led to his conversion to Christianity days later."
"He told me that he was always taught that to die as a martyr would ... (more >>>)
Happy Tune: Whenever I get the blues, I just play 'Flatfoot Floogie' by Slim and Slam, a 1938 cheery little ditty with a vibraphone solo. You can't be sad when someone's playing the happiest musical instrument ever made.
That's why they never have vibraphones or xylophones at funerals. (Well, maybe they had one at Lionel Hampton's service in 2002. His funeral procession began at The Cotton Club in Harlem.) Organ: yes, cello: certainly, harp: OK for the right somber musical selection. But, you just can't mourn when someone's bangin' merrily on a row 'o bones.
Which is ironic because, whenever there's a cartoon featuring dancing skeletons, there's always vibraphone music in the audio track.
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "The old adage about giving a man a fish versus teaching him how to fish has been updated by a reader: Give a man a fish and he will ask for tartar sauce and French fries! Moreover, some politician who wants his vote will declare all these things to be among his 'basic rights'."
Friday April 17, 2015
Odd Move: Volkswagen is selling fewer cars in the U.S. every year. So what are they doing about it? Making their assembly plant larger.
VW "is expanding its growing Chattanooga, TN, factory by even more than the original plans after winning the local government's approval. The German automaker announced its intention last year to invest $900 million to add 538,000 square feet of floor space to the plant, which would add 2,000 new jobs. The company just went back to the city for permission to increase the expansion by a further 130,153 square feet for an even larger body shop."
A Book Worth Having: Michael Lamm has reissued 'A Century of Automotive Style'. I purchased this book about 18 years ago and recommend it highly. It's probably the best tome on car design and covers everything from the coachbuilders of the 1920s and '30s to the in-house design stories at automobile manufacturers.
The book is 308 pages and contains more than 900 photos and illustrations. You can order it here.
Hillary's Van: They may call it 'Scooby' after the Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine but that big black thing looks more like a bloated French hearse to me. "Ruh Roh!"
It wouldn't surprise me if Bill Clinton thought 'Bloated French Hearse' was some kind of sexual position.
Restaurant Reminiscence: Recently, we had pasta accompanied by a fine Bardolino red wine from Italy. It made me think of the late, great Ristorante da Gaetano in Philadelphia where I first sampled Bardolino on the recommendation of co-owner and affable hostess Ines Shinco. She described it as "the pasta wine" because it went so well with noodle-based dishes, such as Gaetano's incomparable lasagna.
Gaetano and Ines Shinco opened Gaetano's in 1970 at 725 Walnut Street. It was the city's first four-star Italian restaurant and specialized in Northern Italian cuisine. Gaetano's was a big success and attracted such a stellar list of diners that it became a status symbol to have the restaurant's unlisted phone number. Among the more prominent guests were ... (more >>>)
Kennedy Vs. Nixon: Last week, Maureen Dowd wrote in the New York Times, "When my brother Michael was a Senate page, he delivered mail to John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, who had offices across the hall from each other. He recalled that Kennedy never looked up or acknowledged his presence, but Nixon would greet him with a huge smile. 'Hi, Mike,' he'd say. 'How are you doing? How's the family?'
It seemed a bit counterintuitive ... (but) after puzzling over it, I finally decided that J.F.K. had the sort of magnetism that could ensorcell big crowds, so he did not need to squander it on mail boys. Nixon, on the other hand, lacked large-scale magnetism, so he needed to work hard to charm people one by one, even mail boys."
With each passing year, more cracks appear in the Kennedy legend, like an old piece of poorly-molded polystyrene.
Quote Of The Day is from Terry Pratchett: "Geography is just physics slowed down, with a couple of trees stuck in it."
Wednesday April 15, 2015
How Many Gears Do You Need Anyway? Ford has filed a patent for an 11-speed automatic transmission.
Anyone remember two-speed Powerglide from the 1950s? Or those two-speed Ford-O-Matics used from 1959 to '64?
Auction Madness: Auctions America held an event in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida recently.
Some of the prices were amazing: a 1953 Cadillac Eldorado, which sold for $242,000 and a 1961 Jaguar E-Type Series I 3.8, which sold for $215,000.
On the other hand, a rare 1958 Dual-Ghia fetched only $225,500. During Monterey Week 2013, Gooding & Co. sold a 1957 Dual-Ghia for $495,000. During the Dual-Ghia's brief production run from 1957-1958, just 117 examples were constructed - including 115 convertibles and two coupes.
Book Review: 'Special Deluxe: A Memoir of Life & Cars' by Neil Young
Rocker Neil Young dropped out after 10th grade; you can easily tell by his writing which blends stream-of-consciousness with grammatical errors and pointless car stories which have neither arc nor substance.
Young recently published his memoirs, so this book is supposed to be about his memories triggered by cars he's encountered. It's not. Young wanders all over the place from amplifiers, to guitars, to gigs and to his sanctimonious musings on how badly his dad's 1951 Monarch sedan hurt the environment shedding about 1,296 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every time they made a round trip from Canada to Florida. Although he enjoyed the trip, he has now turned his family's 1950s-era vacation into a guilt trip, choosing to play the role of a skunk at a Sunday school picnic.
It is entirely possible that his dad's Canadian Mercury-clone drove past our neighborhood on the way back to Canada. If so, I give thanks for the carbon dioxide that helped the little evergreen bushes in our front yard grow big and strong.
Neil Young doesn't seem to care much about his cars ... (more >>>)
RIP: R&B singer Percy Sledge, best known for the 1966 boomer anthem, 'When a Man Loves a Woman', has died at age 73 following a lengthy battle with cancer.
In 2005, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Gay Hypocrisy: Tim Cook, Steve Jobs's successor as CEO of Apple is gay - not that there's anything wrong with that.
Recently, he made snarky comments about the pizzeria in Indiana that wouldn't hypothetically cater a gay wedding, although they've never catered any wedding - gay or otherwise - and you have to wonder what kind of uncreative gay dullards would want pizza served at their wedding.
Quote Of The Day is from the late Barry Goldwater, "I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in "A," "B," "C" and "D." Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?"
Monday April 13, 2015
Little Nash: George W. Mason was a talented and successful executive in the kitchen appliance field. He soon became head of Nash Motors, recruited by Charles Nash himself.
High value per dollar was the key to success in the appliance field and Mason brought his philosophy and skill to Nash, bringing unibody construction, lower-weight and better features to the company's automotive offerings.
Nash was always a mid-priced car but, in the postwar era, Mason realized that he needed to break into the low-priced field. But the firm needed to offer something more than just another "me-too" car.
The result was the Nash Rambler, introduced in mid-April 1950. The car was smaller than any of the low-priced three offerings but was ... (more >>>)
More Tax Dollars Wasted: Randall O'Toole, the Antiplanner, wrote, "$1.2 million will buy you a bus that can go 170 miles on a single charge of batteries. The bus has 60 seats, which is just what is needed in Spokane, where the average bus carries just 9 people."
RIP: Richard Dysart, the Emmy-winning actor who portrayed the cranky, patriarchal senior partner Leland McKenzie in the slick, long-running NBC drama 'L.A. Law', has died of cancer at age 86. 'L.A. Law' aired for eight seasons from 1986 to 1994 and was a weekly must-see on our regular television watching schedule.
American musician, composer and arranger Milton DeLugg has died at age 96. He co-wrote 'Orange Colored Sky', which was best remembered as a 1950 hit for Nat King Cole. In 1958, DeLugg produced Buddy Holly's single, 'Rave On!'.
In 1966, DeLugg was musical director for the 'Tonight Show'. He also wrote music for numerous television programs and was musical director of 'The Gong Show'. Mr. DeLugg remained active as musical director of the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade through 2013.
Coffee Memories: I remember, as a five year-old, going to the A&P Supermarket at Frankford and Cottman Avenues in Philadelphia with my mom and strolling down the coffee aisle, inhaling the sweet fumes wafting forth from the grinder. Recently, I found an image of the A&P's big in-store coffee grinder on Lileks.com.
I have always liked the smell of freshly-ground coffee - even though I don't particularly care for the taste of it. When I drink coffee (infrequently), I always add lots of milk and a little sugar.
Quote Of The Day is from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: "We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe."
Thursday April 9, 2015
More From The New York Auto Show: The Aston Martin Vulcan has 800 horsepower, a top speed of 200+ mph, can do 0-60 in 3.4 seconds and costs $2.8 million. Only 34 carbon fiber bodied examples will be produced.
Book Review: 'Killing Patton: The Strange Death of World War II's Most Audacious General' by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
'Killing Lincoln', 'Killing Jesus' and 'Killing Kennedy' were books about famous people being put to death by others. This book begins with the stated premise that General George S. Patton, Jr. died under mysterious circumstances in the months following the end of World War II. Here's the spoiler, folks: By the time you finish this book, you'll find the circumstances not-so-mysterious. Evidence of a murder plot is virtually nonexistent.
The book is a collection of tales and gossip about the final six months of World War II in the European Theater. While the book is a fairly easy read and mildly entertaining, it is neither a book about World War II nor a biography of Patton. I'm not sure what the book is, other than a line-extension of O'Reilly's mega-hyped 'Killing' series. Much of the book seems lifted from ... (more >>>)
One Funny, Extraordinary Creative Guy: American author, recording artist, animation voice actor, comedian, radio personality, advertising creative director and all-around legend Stan Freberg has died at age 88.
During his voice-over career, Freberg was heard in many Warner Brothers cartoons.
His 'Dragnet' parody record, "St. George and the Dragonet," was a #1 hit for four weeks in October 1953. I still have the 45 rpm record somewhere. Freberg's Dragnet parodies are generally credited with popularizing the catch phrase "Just the facts, ma'am".
Stan made many memorable commercials for products such as Prince Spaghetti, Jeno's Pizza Rolls, Sunsweet Prunes and Contadina Tomato Paste ("Who put eight great tomatoes in that little bitty can?").
Freberg won 21 Clio awards for his commercials. RIP.
Quote Of The Day is from Henry Ford on the success of the Model T: "We took what was a luxury and made it into a necessity. Our only advantage was lack of precedent."
Tuesday April 7, 2015
March Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were at a 17.05 million SAAR (seasonally adjusted annual rate) in March - up 3.8% from March 2014 and up 5.5% from the 16.2 million annual sales rate last month.
General Motors posted total March sales of 249,875 vehicles, a drop of 2% compared with March 2014. The reduced total reflects weaker Cadillac and Chevrolet sales, with modest gains in GMC and Buick sales. GM's best-selling vehicle in the month was the Silverado pickup, which saw a sales gain of 7% to 45,193 units. At GM, low-margin fleet sales accounted for nearly 27% of overall sales.
Ford Motor Co. posted a U.S. sales decline of 3% in March, to 235,929 vehicles, compared with March 2014 sales of 244,167 in the year-ago period. Sales of most of the company's best-selling vehicles fell in the month, with the exceptions of the full-size Explorer sport utility vehicle and the Mustang, which saw sales increases of 17% and 36%, respectively.
Chrysler Group's sales increased a modest 2% to 197,261 units. Jeep sales rose 24%, while Dodge sales fell 24% to 46,049 vehicles. Ram truck sales were up just over 1%.
Toyota's sales increased 5% to 225,959 vehicles, while American Honda's sales slipped 5% to 126,294 units. Nissan sales fell to 145,085 vehicles, a drop of 3%. Hyundai-Kia's sales increased 10% to 133,790 vehicles. Mazda sales fell 8% to 32,123 zoom-zoomers. Subaru sales increased 10% to 49,111 vehicles.
Cadillac and Lincoln, posted year-over-year March sales drops of 7% and 3%, respectively. Cadillac's Escalade SUV sales rose by 125% in March. Cadillac sold a total of 13,756 vehicles last month, while Lincoln sold 8,695 vehicles. Only the brand's Navigator SUV sold more units in March than it did last March - 1,097 compared with 746, an increase of 47%.
BMW sales were up by 7% in March to 34,310 units, while 32,300 Mercedes-Benzes found buyers, an increase of 10%. Infiniti sales were flat at 12,525 units, while Acura sales dropped 6% to 14,670 vehicles. Lexus sales increased 8% to 31,054 units. Only 676 examples of the flagship LS 460 sedan found buyers in March - a drop of 9% from last year. Audi sold 17,102 vehicles - an increase of 20% over last March.
Alfa sold 73 examples of its 4C sports car in March, while Bentley sold 220 automobiles. 4,291 Porsches found buyers, an increase of 13%, while Maserati sales increased by 3% to 996 automobiles.
Healthy Lesson: Malcolm Berko is a believer in the continued rise of the health care stock segment. So am I.
He relates this story: "Several years after Medicare was established in 1965, a young orthopedic surgeon I knew was told by his father, who was a big shot at Merck, to triple his office size, take on two partners and purchase a large home on the water. He told his son that he and his partners would be working 14-hour days and would barely be able to handle the patient flow that would occupy his Tampa, Florida, waiting room. I also remember the father's comment that Congress had become Santa Claus - when it designed a boondoggle of tax dollars for the medical profession - and that most medical specialists such as his son would become multimillionaires after a few years.
That was about 45 years ago ... (more >>>)
RIP: Rudolph R. Perz, creator of the Pillsbury Doughboy. has died at age 89. Poppin' Fresh, more widely known as the Pillsbury Doughboy, is the advertising mascot for the Pillsbury Company. He first appeared in 1965.
Rudy Perz was a copywriter for Pillsbury's longtime advertising agency, Leo Burnett. Perz was sitting in his kitchen in the spring of 1965, under pressure to create an advertising campaign for Pillsbury's refrigerated dough product line and imagined a living dough boy popping out of a Pillsbury Crescent Rolls can.
To distinguish the dough boy from the rolls, he gave it a scarf, a chef's hat, two big blue eyes, a blush and a soft, hee-hee when poked in the stomach.
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell, "The radical feminist movement, so ready to go ballistic at any little remark that can be twisted to mean something offensive to women, has been strangely silent while ISIS has been raping women and even little girls wholesale, and selling them as sex slaves. Is the silence of the radical feminists just political expediency or moral bankruptcy? Or both?"
Friday April 3, 2015New York Auto Show: The online auto news sites have been busy covering new vehicles to be displayed at this year's show. Here are observations on selected 2016 models:
Exclusive NY Auto Show Pix: Here's an exclusive for ya - forty-nine years ago, I attended the show at the New York Coliseum and posted some pictures and program advertisements here.
Name Game: Whatever you think of the recently revealed Lincoln Continental Concept, exhibited at the 2015 New York Auto Show and allegedly a thinly-disguised preview of the 2016 production version, give props to Lincoln for daring to replace its confusing MK Alphabet Soup model designations with a familiar model name adding some heritage to its new flagship. Dare greatly, Lincoln.
I like the overall shape of the concept car, although ... (more >>>)
Teddy's Still Screwing Taxpayers From The Grave: The new Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate just opened in Boston.
Howie Carr wrote, "This white elephant on Columbia Point was supposed to be paid for exclusively with private donations. Liberals are, after all, so generous - they'll always give you the shirt off somebody else's back. But the reality is that the Beautiful People throw around quarters like manhole covers, and once Teddy was dead, what good could he do them?
So the federal taxpayers (that's you and me) are on the hook for $38 million, and the state (ditto) got clipped for another $5 million."
Barack Obama recently said that Ted Kennedy made the Senate "come alive." Mary Jo Kopechne would have begged to differ.
Dead As His Rocks: Gary Ross Dahl, the creator of the wildly popular and bizarre 1975 Pet Rock fad, has died aged 78 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. RIP.
Book Review: 'How We Got To Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World' by Steven Johnson
The author has written a wonderful and interesting book exploring the history of innovation over centuries, tracing facets of modern life to early inventions and their development over centuries. Johnson examined unexpected connections between seemingly unrelated fields: how air-conditioning made the largest migration in human history possible - to desert cities such as Dubai or Phoenix. And how pendulum clocks helped trigger the industrial revolution. And how the birth of railroads ultimately caused time zones to be invented.
Johnson focused on six area of innovation ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Terry Pratchett: "A marriage is always made up of two people who are prepared to swear that only the other one snores."
Wednesday April 1, 2015
The Sad Tale Of The Chuffley-Waite: I first wrote this fictitious story as a contribution to a car club's April newsletter in 1989. It begins thusly:
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