A Blog About Cars ... And Everything Else That Catches My Eye
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Friday August 29, 2014
AutoSketch: 1957 Ford Thunderbird - Fun For Two
Depending which story you hear, the two-seat Thunderbird was inspired either by the Jaguar XK120 and other European sports cars being imported in ever-increasing numbers or by the 1953 Chevrolet Corvette offered by rival General Motors. Probably it was a bit of both.
In any case, styling VP George Walker ordered designer Frank Hershey and his team to come up with a two-seater with styling easily recognizable as a Ford. Work commenced in early 1953. A prototype '55 Thunderbird was unveiled to the public at the Detroit Auto Show on February 20, 1954.
The Thunderbird entered production for the 1955 model year as ... (more >>>)
Hot, Hot, Hot: By 9:00 am Wednesday, the temperature was already 71 degrees and the forecast was for more heat with an afternoon high of 91 degrees. So, I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and got in a drive before it got any hotter. I had a pleasant country roads jaunt with the windows rolled down.
The skies were blue with some morning haze still around the edges. It was good to get out and about and exercise my old car. And old me.
Fifty-Two Years Ago: Walmart, Kmart and Target all opened their first retail stores in the same year: 1962. Kmart was originaly Kresge's, a dime store chain, and Target was a division of Midwest department store colossus Dayton-Hudson. (permalink)
Aging And The Futile Quest For Earthly Immortality: There's a famous Woody Allen quote, "I want to achieve immortality through not dying." Over at the Sippican Cottage blog, Gregory Sullivan wrote wisely, "Sooner or later it's not your turn anymore. People take your place. You may not like it, but it's the way of the world.
You could be like Ray Kurzweil, self-absorbed and dreaming of paying bemused men in lab coats to Ted Williams your noggin after you shuffle off this mortal coil, but you're wasting your time. Believe me, Ray, no matter how much money you pay those guys to Birds Eye your head, they'll get high after lunch and accidentally kick out the plug while they're playing hacky sack, plug it back in when they sober up and realize what they've done, and when they finally defrost you and sew your head on a used Japanese sex doll with a Pentium chip where your heart used to go, you'll be about as useful as a Kardashian."
You want eternal life? ... (more >>>)
My Grandmother Had The Right Idea: The Vanguard Wellington Fund, the nation's oldest balanced fund, recently celebrated its 85th birthday.
The Wellington Fund began operations on July 1, 1929, just months before the worst stock market crash in U.S. history and the onset of the Great Depression. A young Philadelphia accountant named Walter L. Morgan was its founder and offered a diverse portfolio of common stocks, preferred stocks and high-quality corporate and U.S. government bonds. Despite Walter's awful timing, the groundbreaking fund - originally called the Industrial and Power Securities Company - hung on, thanks to its prudent management, balance, diversification and long-term perspective.
But the fund (which was renamed in 1935 for the Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo) didn't simply survive - it thrived. For more than eight decades, Wellington Management Company has served the fund's shareholders well, using the very same investment principles that guided it through the Great Depression. And those timeless themes still ring true today.
Wellington isn't very flashy and gets little notice from those investment gurus du jour. But, as I got older, I began to shift some of my investments away from growth mutual funds into Wellington. I have not been disappointed.
Interestingly, an investment of of $1,000 in July, 1929 would now be worth ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from the late Sci-Fi author Robert Heinlein: "Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded - here and there, now and then - are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
This is known as 'bad luck'."
Wednesday August 27, 2014
Endless Summer ... is what it felt like on Monday. By 10:00 am, it was already 71 degrees - temperatures eventually reached 91 - and the skies were that prototypical summer azure hue with nary a cloud in sight. Mt. St. Helens was clearly visible - absent most of its snow.
Since I was feeling good, I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and drove to the public library to return old books and pick up a new one. Afterwards, I took my usual country back roads loop to go home.
Along the way, I got thumbs up and high-fives from a gaggle of schoolgirls outside Hockinson High. I'm sure they were acknowledging the shiny old Plymouth rather than crusty old yours truly.
Summer may be coming to an end but it sure doesn't feel like it yet.
New Problems Vs. Old Problems: In a recent TTAC article about the various electronic glitches plaguing owners of Teslas, there were interesting readers' comments pointing out that the good old days weren't exactly a cake walk.
"If you think modern electronics are awful, check the vacuum-actuated controls in some older iron. ... You've had to live through the days of vacuum controlled emissions controls (and windshield wipers!) to appreciate how far we've come … My Thunderbird has hydraulically-powered wipers. Reliable as long as you keep your power steering in good order." My good friend Rich McFall once owned a purple 1953 Oldsmobile convertible that had hydraulic power windows. The problem was, they leaked and, if you touched a window button, a stream of hydraulic fluid would spray the front of your trousers.
"My ’97 Jetta VR6 has vacuum-operated central door locks. It is equipped with an original keyless-entry system, so it's always odd to press the unlock button and then hear that whirring delay for a couple of seconds before the locks disengage. If there's ever a leak in the system - and there might already be - it's going to be a complete pain to get in and fix it." My 1979 Lincoln Town Car also had vacuum door locks. They worked reluctantly, verrrrry slowly or sometimes not at all.
"Those diagrams on the hoods and slam panels of older cars always scared the hell out of me. No way would I want to chase down a problem in that kind of system." Yes, well ... (more >>>)
I Didn't Know There Were Any Newsstands Left: Magazine newsstand sales - a big profit generator for publishers - have collapsed, dropping 12% in the past six months.
No. 1 seller 'Woman's World' (I never heard of it either), was down 16% to 934,205, and 'First for Women, dropped 14% to 865.665 copies.
Celebrity magazines, which come out weekly, showed some of the biggest overall declines. 'Cosmopolitan', Hearst's newsstand powerhouse, tumbled 25% on newsstands to 774,077 from over 1 million copies in the same period a year earlier. 'People' lost 15% of its single-copy sales to 706,344. 'Us Weekly' was also down ... (more >>>)
Down At The Shore: My brother recently sent me one of those pulp giveaway shoppers' guides to the New Jersey shore. It contained this ad:
Does anyone think the owners are really Amish? How can a group that rejects technology and all things electronic process EBT cards? And aren't the Amish in favor of self-reliance and against welfare programs?
In the same shopper's guide was an ad for Lucky 7 Pizzeria, just up the street from its apparent sister company, Lucky 7 Gold & Consignment, a place that also offers "all balloons and greeting cards for $1." Both are located on Bayshore Road in Cape May County.
The pizzeria is equally diversified, offering ... (more >>>)
Superman Brings Superprice: An almost-mint copy of Action Comics #1, the first appearance of Superman which revolutionized the comic book industry, has sold on eBay for $3,207,852, shattering the previous record price of $2.16 million set in 2011. The comic carried a print date of June, 1938 and a printed price of 10¢.
Liberalism And Its Definitions ... from the House of Eratosthenes: "From what does liberalism seek to liberate us? Those things - starting with the definitions. Marriage is not marriage. Illegal isn't. The nation's border isn't here, and maybe the nation isn't either. 'Working families' often don't. And often aren't.
For what? A bunch of stuff that's been tried before already. Their response to that is everything they can do to discourage everyone from remembering what happened before; and that's their idea of looking forward, forgetting the past. Even the accumulation of knowledge must be re-defined. They think they're learning new things, and teaching new things, when they proliferate ignorance.
It is the ideology of darkness and despair."
Obama's Secret Army: David Burge wrote, "Cower in fear, ISIS - you're up against our crack hipster-glasses brain trust of campaign van drivers and coffee fetchers."
Another Global Warming Alert: Bitter Arctic winds could plunge parts of Britain into the coldest spell of August weather for almost a century.
Thermometers are set to plummet as a stubborn band of low pressure drags air in from the north - with two weeks of wet, windy and cold weather on the horizon.
There is even a chance of snow and sleet over the mountains of Scotland as it dips to near freezing overnight.
Government figures show the last time it was this cold in August was in 1919.
And ... an unseasonably cold low pressure system is expected to bring below-average temperatures to the northern Rockies. Higher elevations in Montana and Wyoming may have significant snowfalls this week.
Thanks, Obama: The White House sent three representatives to the funeral/circus of dead thug Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on Monday. The officials who attended the funeral were Broderick Johnson, who leads the White House's 'My Brother's Keeper Task Force'. He was joined by Marlon Marshall, a St. Louis native who attended high school with Brown's mother, and Heather Foster. Both Marshall and Foster are part of the White House Office of Public Engagement - whatever that is.
Obama his-own-self couldn't make the funeral; he was busy having his head measured for Mount Rushmore.
This is the same White House that couldn't be bothered to send anyone to the memorial Mass for murdered reporter James Foley, who was beheaded by ISIS. This is also the same White House that didn't send anyone to Margaret Thatcher's funeral. Ms. Thatcher, one of the great British prime ministers, was a good friend to America during her time in office.
The hype and cynicism surrounding the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer is astounding. Brown's 'funeral' could have been called The Al Sharpton Show, as the perennial bottom-feeding race-baiter seemed to be the star. MSNBC, Sharpton's current employer, is symbolic of the deterioration of journalism.
It was basically a celebrity funeral with Rev. Jesse Jackson, film director Spike Lee, T.D. Jakes, the bishop of an African-American megachurch; several members of Congress, representatives from the White House, two children of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the parents of Trayvon Martin in the audience.
And ... how come all those "investigative" reporters covering Ferguson were unable to ascertain exactly who paid for fellow dead thug Trayvon Martin's parents' expenses to attend the funeral?
Book Review: 'Not Cool: The Hipster Elite and Their War on You' by Greg Gutfeld
Greg Gutfeld is a brilliantly funny social commentator. His middle-of-the-night cult show, 'Red Eye', is fast-paced and interesting. Greg is also a regular on 'The Five', another Fox News show.
In this book, Gutfeld posits that what we wear, eat, smoke, drink and who we vote for is carefully crafted and manipulated by progressive, self-styled 'cool' people. In his latest book, the author outlines a plan for reclaiming the real American ideal of cool: building businesses, protecting freedom and taking responsibility for one's actions.
Gutfeld's style is snarky, comic and sarcastic, but he uses these attributes to reinforce his arguments. Unfortunately ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from H.L. Mencken: "The capacity of human beings to bore one another seems to be vastly greater than that of any other animal."
Monday August 25, 2014
Beaters: Jack Baruth recently wrote a piece for TTAC about the use of rental cars for road tests. This is necessary because many manufacturers won't give TTAC cars to test since the writers call 'em as they see 'em and that does not please the boyz in Detroit. Or Spartanburg. Or Stuttgart.
There was much discussion about whether rental cars are abused. There was no clear consensus and I have no definite answer either. When I rent cars these days, I drive them like the geezer I am. When I was younger, it was sometimes a different story:
I hope ... (more >>>)
Vehicular Therapy: Last Friday, I felt well enough to take a drive in my '39 Plymouth coupe. But my hands were numb and tingly (feeling of pins and needles); this is a condition called peripheral neuropathy and is a side effect of the chemotherapy - another dose of which I had last week.
Luckily, this side-effect generally lessens as time passes between treatments. In any case, I enjoyed the drive under sunny blue skies with cool morning temperatures (62 degrees at 9:00 am).
I felt much perkier after I came home; I am convinced that driving the Plymouth is good mental therapy for me.
A Voice Of Reason In The Car-Peddling Game: Criticizing longer loan-terms and looser underwriting standards for new vehicle loans, John Mendel, Honda's head of sales, said, "It's a very, very short-term tactic … especially in the subprime area, because you not only are pulling sales forward, you're probably pulling people out of used cars into a new car that maybe they can't afford."
Stating that the new car market was "near the top," Mendel said that Honda would continue to focus on retail sales, rather than pivot towards more fleet delivers like many of its rivals do. Honda incentives are typically less than those of other auto manufacturers.
Near the top? Very possibly so. The latest second-quarter 2014 data from Experian, the global financial/credit information services group, was released this week; key metrics like repossessions, loan delinquencies and outstanding balances have all seen increases. Auto loan balances are at a new high.
Outstanding balances were up nearly 12%, rising to an all-time high of $839.1 billion dollars. 60-day delinquencies were up 7%, while 30-day delinquencies were up to 2.4% year over year. Repossessions were up by 70% in the same time period.
Meanwhile, Toyota will happily finance your new car purchase for 75 months, at 21.40% interest, if .... (more >>>)
Gays Won't Be Happy With The Derb: John Derbyshire, late of National Review, bemoaned today's society including our approach to AIDS. "The first time I fully grasped the scale of this Cultural Marxist lunacy was in the 1980s when the AIDS scare came up.
It was plain that AIDS was being spread in the U.S.A. mainly by promiscuous homosexual buggery. I assumed that AIDS would set back the liberalization of attitudes to homosexuality by 100 years; that a general revulsion by the 97 percent would push the three percent firmly back in the closet."
Initially, I was a supporter of AIDS research because I thought that such work would offer trickle-down benefits such as new drugs/cures for other immune system diseases such as scleroderma, lupus, ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis and the like. Didn't ... (more >>>)
Restaurant Review: Mill Creek Pub; Battle Ground, WA
This restaurant is rated by TripAdvisor as one of the top dining establishments in Battle Ground and rightly so. The pub-style food is very tasty and the service is quick and friendly.
Be warned that the decor of the place ... (more >>>)
Change Happens: Mark Perry of AEI noted that 88% of the companies on the 1955 Fortune 500 list have either gone bankrupt, merged, or still exist but have fallen from the top Fortune 500 companies (ranked by total revenues). "Most of the companies on the list in 1955 are unrecognizable, forgotten companies today (e.g. Armstrong Rubber, Cone Mills, Hines Lumber, Pacific Vegetable Oil, and Riegel Textile, )." Also gone from the list: American Motors, Brown Shoe, Studebaker, Collins Radio, Detroit Steel, Zenith Electronics, Rohm and Haas and National Sugar Refining.
All the companies I worked for are gone (bankrupt, merged out of existence, etc.). Same for my dad and both of my grandfathers. (permalink)
Quote Of The Day is from Rick Brookhiser: "There is also a little town in Saskatchewan, called Bigger. It has a sign outside it saying, 'New York is Big, But This is Bigger.'"
Thursday August 21, 2014
Looking For More Car Pix? I've posted links to vehicle photos from twelve auto museums I've visited.
Bacon: Is There Anything It Can't Do? Hormel Foods, the meat people, have assembled a motorcycle that runs on bacon grease. It will soon be traveling from company headquarters in Austin, Minnesota to San Diego, California - just in time for the International Bacon Film Festival.
Is It Just Me?
Book Review: 'The Arsenal Of Democracy: FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm an America at War' by A.J. Baime
World War II history is a big pie and A.J. Baime's book represents a very small, if well-written slice. This book is a very incomplete look at the unprecedented industrial mobilization of America for the war effort. It focuses mostly on Ford Motor Company's internal struggles as it ramped up to produce B-24 Liberator bombers at the rate of one per hour at its huge, newly-constructed Willow Run plant. After the war, the plant was used by General Motors to produce Chevrolet Corvairs and Novas.
Much is written in the book about the complex and sad relationship between Henry Ford and his son Edsel as well as ... (more >>>)
Israel's Strategy Explained: Victor Davis Hansen wrote, "In the current asymmetrical war, Israel has found a method of inflicting as much damage on Hamas as it finds politically and strategically useful without suffering intolerable losses. And because the war is seen as existential - aiming rockets at a civilian population will do that - Israeli public opinion will largely support the effort to retaliate.
As long as Israel does not seek to reoccupy Gaza, it can inflict enough damage on the Hamas leadership, and on both the tunnels and the missile stockpiles, to win four or five years of quiet. In the Middle East, that sort of calm qualifies as victory. And the more the world sees of the elaborate tunnels and vast missile arsenals that an impoverished Hamas had built with other people's money, and the more these military assets proved entirely futile in actual war, the more Hamas appears not just foolish but incompetent, if not ridiculous, as well."
Let's hope that the world sees through Hamas' lies and understands that they're nothing but terrorist thugs.
A Great Voice Stilled: Don Pardo, the veteran television and radio announcer, has died 96. Pardo was best known for his voiceover announcing "It's Saturday Night Live!"
He was also the announcer for early incarnations of such notable shows as 'The Price Is Right', 'Jackpot', 'Jeopardy!', 'Three on a Match', 'Winning Streak' and 'NBC Nightly News'. Pardo was the on-duty live booth announcer for WNBC-TV in New York and the NBC network on November 22, 1963, and he was first to announce to NBC viewers that President John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Texas.
Pardo's career first began in radio in 1938. The announcer was hired by NBC in 1944 and, along with Bob Hope and Milton Berle, was one of only three people ever to be offered lifetime contracts with NBC. Rest in Peace.
And To Think I Used To Live There: Willingboro, NJ decided to rename its Kennedy Center as the Barack Obama Center.
Some residents are understandably upset. Kristina Darlin wrote on the Burlington County Times Facebook page: "What's next - naming malls after terrorists since he negotiates with them?! What a disgrace to America!!"
Lindsey Rotteau wrote, "The only place his name should appear is in school textbooks stating he was the worst president in our history. The only change he made was making people not be proud to be an American!"
When we moved into our first home in Willingboro, the town was a pleasant, racially-mixed community with a (more >>>)
Another Black Perspective: Jason Riley of The Wall Street Journal weighed in on the Ferguson, Missouri Riots on Fox News Special Report. "We don't have all the evidence and I'm hesitant to try and litigate this in the press, but there's also this false narrative being pushed out there by folks like Michael Eric Dyson and [Al] Sharpton and the rest of the hustlers is that black men live in fear of being shot by cops in these neighborhoods. That too is nonsense. I know something about growing up black and male in the inner city and it's not that hard to avoid getting shot by a cop. They pull you over, you answer their questions, you are on your way.
The real difficulty is not getting shot by other black people if you are a young black man in these neighborhoods and again that is something we need to talk more about. Cops are not the problem. Cops are not producing these black bodies in the morgues every weekend in Chicago, in New York and Detroit and so forth. That's not cops. It's those other black people shooting black people."
Former liberal Roger L. Simon posited ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from John Derbyshire: "I favor the death penalty, preferably by some slow, gruesome, and excruciating method, for the manufacturers and users of that type of padded envelope that, if you tear it open, showers you, your clothes, your furniture, and your lunchtime sandwich with fibrous gray stuffing."
Tuesday August 19, 2014
Of Cars And Mistresses: Dan Neil used the inevitable and predictable sports cars/mistresses analogy as he tested the Jaguar F-Type R coupe.
He began, "The 911 is the sports car you marry, the sports car you drive to church, the sports car that bears your children. A Porsche 911 is a car that you will let sit in your garage undriven for days at a time, for years on end, drinking the full draught of depreciation, because you just can't … let go. History. Motorsports glory. Flawless performance. It's all there."
Then appeared the Jaguar F-Type R Coupe, "our cool six-figure test car ... a whole different proposition. L'affaire, if you will. However you see yourself, whatever the color of the sky in your world, the R Coupe has to be a temporary thing in your life - a phase, your wife calls it - because the car is so frank and so candidly on-the-make that even you, would-be man whore, cannot bear the attention for long."
"Driving around Raleigh, NC, I did feel distinctly like a one-man heterosexual pride parade. ... Establishing dominance? I'm afraid so. There's obviously a degree of leg humping in the purchase of a 550-hp British sports car that sounds like a grumpy Mount Vesuvius."
He posited that the Porsche 911 is more like a dependable wife ... (more >>>)
Do What I Say, Not What I Do: There's a new allegation regarding the restructuring of former American parts maker Delphi, once a division of General Motors. Reportedly, the Treasury Department under Barack Obama helped the company re-incorporate in England as part of a tax avoidance strategy. That's an embarrassing revelation for a President who recently condemned American companies that incorporate abroad as "corporate deserters."
Scott Grannis offered this comment: "Obamacare was arguably the most stupid thing the Obama administration has done to date. Trying to stop corporate inversions might be the second most stupid thing. Not only are they showing themselves to be very anti-business, they are displaying supreme ignorance of how business and taxation interact. Instead of trying to stop inversions they should simply fix the tax code. But no, they want to force things to work their way, giving top priority to government's claim on profits.
This will keep the economy weaker than it otherwise could have been for the next few years, because capital doesn't like to stay where it is not welcome."
Not A Good Trend: For those "born in the mid- to late-1930s who didn't finish high school, there were more than ten black men in their early 20s working for every one black man in that age group in jail in the mid-1950s. For black men born in the mid-1970s and after who didn't graduate from high school, there have been more of them in jail than working by their early 20s. For the most recent cohort group born between 1985 and 1989, there are 122 black high school dropouts ages 20-24 currently in jail for every 100 black male high school dropouts currently working."
The chart above displays the share of black male high school dropouts ages 20-24 who are employed (blue line) versus the share that are institutionalized (mostly in jail) for various birth years starting in 1935 ... (more >>>)
Eight Americas: It's inevitable. Whenever reporters and pundits run out of things to write about, they seek the cover of a good ol' 'us and them' story. Rich vs. poor. Black vs. white. Haves vs. have-nots. And the headline is always the same: 'There Are Two Americas'.
Baloney. There are many Americas. I've come up with eight - right here.
Restaurant Review: Salty's on the Columbia; Portland, OR
This has been generally one of the most consistent restaurants we've ever experienced. The food is always well-prepared and delectable. Salty's specializes in seafood but the steaks are some of the best in town. The view of the Columbia River is spectacular.
Self-parking is limited, so arrive early unless you want to have a valet park your car. On Friday evenings, Salty's often features the Mel Brown Quartet, an exceptional mainstream jazz group with a strong Portland-area fan base - including me.
This is the place where ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from The Simpsons' Lenny: "There's nothing like revenge for getting back at people."
Monday August 18, 2014
Monterey Week: Last week's annual August carfest offered the usual mix of spectacular and interesting auto auction results.
RM Auctions sold Steve McQueen's Chianti Red 1967 275 GTB/4 by Scaglietti that the actor ordered from the factory in Italy and had delivered to the San Francisco set of the iconic movie 'Bullitt'.
The car fetched over $10,000,000. McQueen owned the car for more than four years before selling it.
RM also sold a metallic bronze 1948 Tucker for $1.57 million. A red 1964 Ferrari 250 LM offered by RM brought in $11.55 million. And a 1965 Ford GT40 Roadster Prototype (white with twin blue stripes and a 380 horsepower midship-mounted V8) garnered $6.93 million. A 1992 Vector W8 Twin Turbo brought in $250,000. RM also sold a maroon 1958 Dual-Ghia Convertible at no reserve for $385,000.
Bonhams sold a RHD white with blue stripe 1953 Ferrari 250 MM Berlinetta with body by Pinin Farina for $7,260,000.
A 1966 Ferrari 365P Berlinetta Speciale, the road-going ‘P’ car with three-seater, center-drive coachwork by Pininfarina, was sold ... (more >>>)
Is John Kerry Senile? Or just off his meds? As the world melts into chaos and threats to the U.S. homeland multiply, America's top foreign policy official seems bizarrely, even dangerously, fixated on ... ummmm ... global warming.
In remarks at the East-West Center in Honolulu last week, Kerry repeated his claim that climate change is "the biggest challenge ... we face right now." What a moron.
Interesting Factoid: At any given moment, there are 100,000 people aloft flying in Boeing 747s.
Further Proof That The End Of The World Is Nigh: The Oxford Dictionary has just added the words 'side boob' and 'YOLO' to its index.
Quote Of The Day is from J. Peder Zane (of the N.C. Triangle News-Observer) on Maureen Dowd: "I keep thinking of her as a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The New York Times. I keep expecting her to display the insight and seriousness that has long distinguished that paper's celebrated writers.
Instead, Maureen Dowd is the Joan Rivers of American journalism: a catty gossipmonger whose stock in trade is not arresting ideas but glib putdowns."
Friday August 15, 2014
This Is What Lincoln Needs To Do: Cadillac is reportedly developing a world-class rear-wheel-drive flagship model. It will compete with the $100,000+ Mercedes S-Class and will make its debut at the 2015 New York Auto Show.
Maybe Cadillac can return to being the 'Standard of the World'. But it has some serious work to do first.
For instance, the very butch-looking 2015 Cadillac CTS now has a front grille emblem without the usual Cadillac wreath. I think this is a bad idea. Cars with a consistent brand message don't change emblems - consider BMW's roundel and Mercedes' three-pointed star. What does Caddy have against the wreath?
Meanwhile, Automotive News reported that GM's Lansing, Michigan factory will sit idle for three weeks because Cadillac's inventory levels are higher than Snoop Dogg on a slow afternoon. Currently, there's a 152-day supply of the entry-level ATS, while the CTS has a 215-day supply - an astonishingly high number by industry standards. The bloated XTS sedan and the hybrid ELR have 152 and 194 days worth of supply respectively.
Cadillac now averages a 172-day supply - about triple the level that is considered healthy. By comparison ... (more >>>)
It Begins: This weekend in California the world's wealthiest collectors will converge on the 18th fairway of Pebble Beach Golf Course to drool over the most beautiful cars ever made.
Then there are the auctions. Well-sourced insiders said the total sales between such blue-chip houses as Gooding, RM Auctions and Bonham's will move more than $1 billion of automotive iron over the course of the weekend. The most highly anticipated seller this year is a rare 1962 Ferrari GTO Berlinetta expected to go for $60-75 million at the Bonham's auction, according to experts.
Well, it turned out that the auction experts were wrong on that one. On Friday morning, the Ferrari in question went under the gavel at no reserve and fetched a mere $38.115 million, including buyer's fees.
On Thursday, Mecum Auctions sold a 1957 BMW Isetta - the 13 horsepower bubble car - for $26,000. A 1960 Austin-Healey Bugeye Sprite failed to sell at a top bid of $12,000 and a gorgeous 1960 Jaguar Mark IX saloon fetched $45,000.
Mostly Cloudy With A Chance Of Glasspacks: At 9:30 am yesterday, the sky was full of clouds but there were patches of blue here and there so I decided to take my '39 Plymouth for a drive.
I hadn't driven the old coupe for over a week due to various events, including rainy weather and feeling punk after my latest chemo treatment. But I felt good on Thursday, so off I went, with rock and roll music coming out of the speakers and rumbles coming out of the Glasspacks.
It was a mostly pleasant drive, except for the idiot who pulled right out in front of me from a driveway - I passed her and leaned on the horn. She turned in three driveways down. What a moron. But I didn't get rained on although it was cloudy and dark in spots, and returned home safely.
Summer's nearly over and I gotta get those old car rides in. I talked to my friend Ray - of yellow '88 Corvette fame - and he told me that he just got his Vette back after a two-year restoration and repair of flood damage. I advised him to get lots of drives in while he can.
Like my Plymouth, Ray's Corvette hibernates in the garage during winter months.
We've Made Great Medical Progress In The Last 100 Years: Consider the offering from one Dr. Batty (courtesy of Stumptown Blogger):
Falling Wages: U.S. jobs pay an average 23% less today than they did before the 2008 recession, according to a new report released by the United States Conference of Mayors. The report found $93 billion in lost wages.
"Jobs lost during the recession paid an average $61,637. As of 2014, jobs in the same sectors paid an average of $47,171 annually. The report also found that 73% of metro area households earn salaries of less than $35,000 a year."
President Barack Obama, who is on a two-week vacation at Martha's Vineyard (taking a well-deserved break from trampling on the Constitution), has yet to comment on the dour economic findings.
One serious economic bump and we'll be back in recession. Thanks, Obama.
Maybe they Should Give Her A Copy Of Playboy To Take Her Mind Off It: Koko, the famous sign-language gorilla, was said to be close to tears after learning about the death of Robin Williams, whom she met in 2001.
"Staff at the Gorilla Foundation were, like much of America, in mourning after hearing the news Monday. Williams visited their center in 2001 and quickly befriended Koko, making her laugh for the first time in six months."
About ten years ago, Koko made headlines when female employes at the nonprofit, where the sign-language-speaking gorilla resides, complained that the beast wanted them to expose their breasts.
As the legendery Chuck Berry often sang, "Too much monkey business."
Done, Over: Gregory Sullivan wrote that the internet "is finished and you can go home now." He based his opinion on a particularly awful British music video about diabetes posted on YouTube.
Gregory continued, "You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here. The end is nigh! Save yourselves, before it's too late. Maybe we can all get a Pinterest page and try to atone for our sins by posting nothing but pictures of artisanal cupcakes and shoes for the rest of our godforsaken lives, but this one is going to leave a mark. This is wronger than a fan dancer with an Adam's apple. It's wronger than a trailer hitch on a Renault LeCar. It's wronger than a Gilbert O'Sullivan tribute band."
The internet is not infinite; there is an end to it and I've been there.
Quote Of The Day: We have enough youth. How about a fountain of 'smart'?
Wednesday August 13, 2014
Styling Special: Here's another scale model auto I received for my birthday last week. Styled by Virgil Exner and built for C. B. Thomas, the head of Chrysler's Export Division, the 1952 Chrysler Styling Special was just one in a long series of style prototypes commissioned by Exner and built by Ghia. Another such example was the 1954 Dodge Firearrow IV.
Asked about his show cars by writer Michael Lamm in the early 1970s, Exner explained ... (more >>>)
Ancient Ultra High Tech: 37 years ago, we were amazed by this family 'photo' taken with a video camera which fed into an IBM Selectric typewriter:
It was taken during a demonstration at Philadelphia's wonderful Franklin Institute when we visited in 1977. (permalink)
Global Warming Alert: Death Valley, Calif., which is known for being the world's hottest location, maxed out at a relatively chilly 89 degrees recently. This temperature - nearly 30 degrees below average - was its coolest high temperature on record for the date by a whopping 15 degrees.
The previous record of 104 was set in 1945. "This was only the eighth time that a high in the 80s has occurred in Death Valley in July or August, and there hasn't been a high less than 90 since 1984. Weather records in Death Valley go back to 1911."
Whatever Happened To Christendom? Once upon a time, Europe would justly refer to itself as 'Christendom.' Europeans built the continent's loveliest edifices to accommodate their acts of worship. As pilgrims, missionaries and conquistadors, they sailed to the four corners of the earth, intent on converting the heathen to the true faith.
Now less than 20% of West Europeans attend church services weekly. Less than half of western Europeans say God is a "very important" part of their lives. And fully 15% of western Europeans deny that there is any kind of "spirit, God or life force."
A recent survey revealed that, in an average week, more Muslims attend a mosque than Anglicans go to church.
"Is It Frank's? Thanks." Philadelphians know that phrase as the slogan of Frank's Beverages, a popular local bottler of soda pop. Frank's Black Cherry Wishniak had a unique taste and was often quaffed to wash down Philly cheesesteaks.
Frank's Beverages was founded by Jacob Frank in 1885. Jacob was a Russian immigrant who made lemon soda from freshly squeezed lemons on the streets of Philadelphia. It remained a family-run firm until it was sold in 1990.
Frank's offered a variety of soda flavors, including cream soda and cola. Frank's headquarters used to be in the Juniata section of the city with its bottling plant at G and Luzerne Streets. The red Frank's delivery trucks were a familiar sight at corner stores throughout the Philadelphia area
In its heyday - the post-WW II era, Frank's was the largest privately-owned beverage bottling company in the Philadelphia area. The firm also bottled ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'Fizz: How Soda Shook Up the World' by Tristan Donovan
This is a breezy and interesting book about carbonated drinks. It opens with the Coke/Pepsi space war of the 1980s when the big soda makers competed to get their branded cola on the U.S. Space Shuttle. Then it flashes back to 216 B.C., when the legendary Carthaginian general, Hannibal crossed the Pyrenees on his way to fight Italy, he reportedly paused his 46,000 troops and 37 war elephants at the waters of Les Bouillens in France before marching on to victory against the Romans. Today, that same spring water provides the world with Perrier. Who knew?
Here are some things I learned from this book ... (more >>>)
Nanu-Nanu-Arrgh: Robin Williams, Oscar-winning actor and comic has died at age 63; cause of death was suicide by hanging. He had a history of drug and alcohol problems and had been suffering from "severe depression."
Williams, hailed as a comic genius, was a star of movies and television for more than three decades. He was dubbed "the funniest man alive" by Entertainment Weekly in 1997. He came to Hollywood prominence in the late 1970s with his starring role in 'Mork & Mindy', a spin-off of the then-popular 'Happy Days'. Williams played an alien baffled by the ways of Earth, the comedy often resulting from the contrast between how he viewed the world and how the world really worked.
Blogger Matt Walsh wrote, "The death of Robin Williams is significant not because he was famous, but because he was human, and not just because he left this world, but particularly because he apparently chose to leave it. ... It's a tragic choice, truly, but it is a choice, and we have to remember that. Your suicide doesn't happen to you; it doesn't attack you like cancer or descend upon you like a tornado. It is a decision made by an individual. A bad decision. Always a bad decision."
You have to find happiness, love, self-worth and a zest for life within your own mind and soul. Depression must be an awful condition but there are proven remedies for it - drugs, therapy, etc. Not to mention daily prayer. My grandmother used to say, "Everyone has a cross to bear."
And ... you know, if you're a Christian or a Yazidi stranded in ISIS-controlled territory in the Middle East, you have far more reason to be severely depressed. And fearful.
"Happiness and contentment are not found in our talents, our money, our luxuries, or our reputations. If wealthy, brilliant, beloved people tell us anything when they murder themselves, it must be that. ... We are all meant for love. We are all meant for life. And as long as we can still draw breath, there is joy and love to be found here. I believe that. If I didn't, I would have left a long time ago.
Joy and love. There might not be much else for us on this Earth, but these are the only two things that matter anyway. These are the forces that brought the whole universe into being, and these are the forces that sustain it, and us, and all life."
"Life exists, and we are made to live it."
Requiescat In Pace, Robin.
And the same to Lauren Bacall, the smoky-voiced movie legend - perhaps the last of the golden-age film actresses, who has died at age 89 of a stroke.
Bad Pun of the Day: Why do people become bakers? Because they knead the dough!
Monday August 11, 2014
Elvis Has Left The Building: The very cool Jack Baruth has left 'The Truth About Cars' and I'm a bit sad.
The reason he departed: "Given some of the differences in opinion I have recently had with TTAC's owners, this is a good time for us to call it quits. I will not be replaced; the site will be managed by the leadership team at VerticalScope in Toronto and Derek (Kreindler) will continue in his capacity as Managing Editor."
I always enjoyed Jack's writing; it was funny, engaging and honest. He's a rock star in today's auto journal world. And he plays a mean guitar. And is a fan of Lincoln Town Cars of a certain vintage.
Based on the number of fine writers who have stopped contributing to TTAC, I get the impression that VerticalScope doesn't play well with others. I'll miss Jack but can still find him at his own website and the Road & Track site, where he'll follow in the footsteps of such legends as Henry Manney III and Peter Egan.
The Arrogance Of Mass Transit Overlords: Clark County Washington's mass transit system is named C-TRAN.
Despite overwhelming opposition by citizens throughout Clark County, the C-TRAN Board of Directors has voted to spend $6.7 million in local money for a rapid transit bus line from downtown Vancouver to Westfield Vancouver Mall.
C-TRAN is a well-known waster of money. Over the years, I've observed many C-TRAN buses cruising around Vancouver with one or two passengers in them. On any given day, less than 5% of the population use public transit to get to work.
County Commissioner David Madore believes higher operating and maintenance costs for the BRT buses will be financially unsustainable, prompting C-TRAN officials to increase taxes to pay the bill.
The specially designed BRT buses would increase tire costs by 67% while getting lower gas mileage than the current buses, Madore told C-TRAN board members. C-TRAN officials have said the BRT buses would save $878,000 per year, but Madore contends two to six new BRT buses running the route for a year would cost $3.73 million while two to six existing hybrid buses can run the route for a year for $540,000 less.
Madore said that C-TRAN's estimate ... (more >>>)
A Very Brief History Of The Franklin Mint: FM began as a private mint producing gold and silver commemorative coins and medallions. Later, the firm began offering limited edition plates and dolls. They also dealt in dead celebrity merchandise - Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, etc. In 1983, FM began offering diecast scale vehicles. Over the years, Franklin Mint produced more than 600 different issues of motorcycles, trucks, tractors and automobiles. Most were 1:24 scale in size.
Sensing a growing trend for premium 1:43 scale white metal models of American cars as offered by ... (more >>>)
Mr. Doom: Last week, stock market commentator Harry Dent told Stuart Varney on Fox Business that the Dow Jones Industrial Average will soon fall to 6,000 - a drop of over 63%
Don't panic. Harry Dent is always wrong. In 1998, he said that the Dow would rise to 35,000 by 2008.
The evolution of Mr. Dent's book titles tells quite a story:
Be skeptical of all predictions, even by 'experts'.
Restaurant Review: The RingSide East; Portland, OR
Pick up any airline magazine and you'll find several ads listing 'Top 10 Steak Houses in America' or the like. The RingSide in Portland always seems to be listed in one of them. Opened in 1944, the westside downtown RingSide is small, dark and crowded - plus it's tough to find a parking space nearby. I haven't been there in 25 years.
I've been to the eastside location dozens of times. In the 1980s, it probably was the best steakhouse in Portland. Then competition proliferated while the RingSide lost its way. In 2009, we had a particularly bad dining experience and quit going there.
We returned a couple of years later and found that the RingSide East had cleaned up its act and ... (more >>>)
Don't Believe The 'Official' Gummint Inflation Numbers:
llegalmania: Howie Carr of the Boston Herald wrote, "There's a very simple solution to this Obamanation that's occurring on the southern border.
Enforce the law. By which I mean, deport them. Deport them all, not just the latest huddled masses yearning to live for free, forever, in Section 8 housing on EBT cards. No, we must deport all of the 12 or 20 or 30 million illegal aliens who are turning this country into a Third World flophouse.
Can we do it? Yes, we can."
Howie was further outraged when he learned that "one of the illegals has already run up a medical bill into the seven figures in a Boston hospital. That's from Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson, whose buses ferry them around the state from one free lunch to the next."
Americans have to beg for everything and are frequently turned down, but everything is handed to illegal immigrants while We pay for it. And that includes Obama's deadbeat relatives.
Question Of The Day is from William F. Buckley: "If a liberal Catholic is dying, does he ask the priest to give him Moderate Unction?"
Thursday August 7, 2014
Largest Vehicle Exporter: Which automaker in the U.S. exports the most cars to markets outside North America? Well, it's not General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota or Honda.
It's BMW, which exports its US-made cars and SUVs to more than 140 countries from its single U.S. plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Bloomberg reported that BMW exports more vehicles from Spartanburg to markets outside North America than all of the automotive facilities combined in the entire state of Michigan.
Here are some more interesting facts from the Bloomberg article:
"By The Sea, By The Sea ..." The fortunes of Atlantic City, once the jewel of the Jersey Shore, are sinking fast and there seems to be no hope in sight.
Atlantic City was founded in in 1854 when a rail line was constructed from Camden, New Jersey to AC. The Atlantic City Boardwalk was the first boardwalk in the United States, which opened in 1870.
The 1920s, with tourism at its peak, are considered by many historians as Atlantic City's golden age. Many Fortune 500 companies once had stores or showrooms on the Boardwalk - General Electric, Lucky Strike and Underwood Typewriter. General Motors had a showroom on the Steel Pier. H. J. Heinz once had an entire pier of its own. All to showcase products to the hordes of tourists who strolled the boardwalk.
The city's fortunes began to change ... (more >>>)
Do They Have Secret Tunnels Like Hamas? A 1,000-member secretive progressive/liberal journalist group has been uncovered. It includes a prominent CNN commentator, the top two political reporters for The Huffington Post, a Reuters reporter, the editor - obnoxious lefty Katrina vanden Heuvel - of The Nation magazine, a U.S. News & World Report columnist, and approximately two dozen Huffington Post contributors.
This helps explain ... (more >>>)
Barry O - A Joke Of A President: A man walks into a bar where there's a robot bartender. The robot says, "What will you have?" The guy says, "Whiskey." The robot brings back his drink and says to the man, "What's your IQ?" The guy says, "168." The robot then engages in discussions about physics, space exploration and medical technology.
The man leaves, but then he gets curious so he goes back into the bar. The robot bartender says, "What will you have?" The guy says, 'Whiskey." Again, the robot brings the man his drink and says, "What's your IQ?" The guy says, "100." The robot then starts to talk about NASCAR, Budweiser and baseball.
The guy leaves, but finds it very interesting, so he decides to try it one more time. He goes back; the robot says, "What will you have?" "Whiskey." The robot serves his shot and asks, "What's your IQ?" The man says, "Ummm, about 50."
The robot leans in close and asks, "So ... you people ... uhhhh ... still happy with Obama?"
Book Review: 'Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations' by Peter Evans and Ava Gardner
Ava Gardner was once a Hollywood movie star in the 1940s and '50s but, after a life of drinking, smoking sixty cigarettes a day and suffering two strokes, she's broke and worn out. She needs money and hopes to get it from a book deal. The author ... (more >>>)
Headline Of The Week is from The Onion: 'Maybelline Introduces New Ideal-Woman Rubber Mask To Use In Place Of Makeup'.
"Instead of spending hours each morning applying multiple cosmetic products, now women can simply roll out of bed, grab their stunning latex polymer beauty mask that has been molded to accepted standards of female beauty, and stretch it snugly over their face and hair," Maybelline spokeswoman Jessica Healy said of the one-size-fits-all contoured masks, which designers carefully crafted with rouged cheeks, pouty full lips, high cheekbones, and a small taut chin for maximum physical appeal.
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "The more people who are dependent on government handouts, the more votes the left can depend on for an ever-expanding welfare state."
Wednesday August 6, 2014
Birthday Presents With Wheels: I've posted photos of three of my birthday gifts.
The first is a 1:43 scale blue 1936 Ford This particular model reminds me of my parents' car, a ... (more >>>)
Special Wine: My children presented me with six bottles of wine for my birthday, two of which had custom-designed labels which they made:
By the way, I had blood work on Monday and my platelet count has doubled compared with a week ago. So, as I write this, I'm wearing a chemo pump and am back on chemotherapy after a two-week hiatus.
July Vehicle Sales: Light vehicle sales were at a 16.4 million SAAR in July, up 5% from July 2013 but down 2.5% from the 16.9 million annual sales rate last month. Why are sales so good? Answer: easy credit. Wall Street insiders "believe the demand is artificial and should begin to drop once the U.S. Federal Reserve raises interest rates next year."
Morgan Stanley auto analyst Adam Jonas is among those insiders, and has gone as far as to proclaim the demand 'peak auto': "We have little doubt that we're in bubble territory. We've blown through prior (sales) peaks in terms of value, the amount of money people are spending on automobiles. We're in uncharted territory right now."
At Chrysler Group, it was the 52nd straight month that the automaker improved sales over the same month a year prior. Sales were up 20% over last July with Jeep sales up a whopping 41%.
Ford Motor Co. was up 10%; Lincoln sales increased by 14%. General Motors posted a 9% increase, led by the GMC brand which was up 22%. Cadillac sales were down by 3%.
Toyota Motor Co. was up 12%, while Nissan NA saw an 11% increase. Subaru sales were up 27%.
In the luxury field, Lexus was up 19%, Mercedes posted a 15% gain and BMW sales increased 10%, as did Infiniti. Audi sales rose by 12%. Sales of Volvo cars fell 17%, while Jaguar sales plummeted 26%.
American Honda had a bad month with overall sales dropping 4%. Acura was the party-pooper, experiencing an 18% decline. Volkswagen's sales fell 15%.
Birthday Ride: I awoke on Tuesday to low clouds but, by 10:45 am, the sun had broken through with blue skies and puffy clouds here and there. I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and took a back roads cruise.
At 66 degrees, it was warm enough to have the windows down as I listened to the rumble of the Glasspacks and fifties music emanating from the speakers.
It was a good birthday treat.
I'll Be Semi-Famous For The Next Few Minutes: I got mentioned and linked in Lileks' The Bleat yesterday. Thanks, James.
Down near the bottom of the page was a reference to the Tom Thumb Restaurant in downtown Philadelphia. James Lileks writes a lot about Minneapolis I've been there several times but don't know the nooks and crannies of the metro area the way a resident like James does. He also writes about Fargo, a North Dakota town I've never experienced, although I've been to Minot, Tioga and other little towns in the state. (Wait - all towns in North Dakota are little.) James grew up in Fargo and his dad still lives there.
James pointed out that, at the Tom Thumb Restaurant in Philadelphia, you could "enjoy delicious soup on the same spot where Thomas Jefferson penned" the Declaration of Independence.
Now that's something I know about ... (more >>>)
RIP: James Brady, the former White House press secretary who was badly wounded in the assassination attempt against President Ronald Reagan has died at age 73.
He was a clever guy with lots of great quips and strong conservative views until he almost died in the shooting. Jim suffered massive head trauma with resulting brain damage. Sarah Brady, his second wife, became involved in gun-control efforts in 1985, and later chaired Handgun Control Inc.
"Jim touched the lives of so many and has been a wonderful husband, father, friend and role model," his family said. "We are enormously proud of Jim's remarkable accomplishments - before he was shot on the fateful day in 1981 while serving at the side of President Reagan."
Brady was left permanently disabled after being shot by John Hinckley, Jr., outside the Washington Hilton Hotel. Today, Hinckley roams free. Go figure.
Thought For Today: Eagles may soar but weasels never get sucked into jet engines.
Tuesday August 5, 2014
Happy Birthday To Me: I was born 71 years ago today. I share the same date of birth - except for the year - with Loni Anderson, Neil Armstrong and the Elephant Man.
Quote Of The Day is from Steven Wright: "I intend to live forever. So far, so good."
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