A Blog About Cars ... And Much, Much More
Friday February 27, 2015
AutoSketch: 1959 Cadillac Hearse - What A Way To Go!
Of all the '59 Cadillac models to pick from, why draw a hearse? Well, it illustrates the difficulty of trying to integrate conservative funeral tradition with automotive space-age styling.
The Space Race in car design began when General Motors found out about designer Virgil Exner's new 'Suddenly It's 1960' '57 Chrysler Corp. line-up; the GM styling department almost soiled its corporate trousers.
Suddenly, The General realized that Styling VP Harley Earl's age of high 'power dome' hoods and chrome applied by the bucketful with a trowel was over. It was too late to do anything about the '58 models (the '58 Buicks and Oldsmobiles are case studies in high hoods and excess brightwork), but a crash program was initiated to make GM's 1959 models as wild as Chrysler's. The result were creations such as the soaring-finned '59 Caddy and the bat-winged '59 Chevy.
Understandably, Cadillac had some reason to worry. In 1957, sales of the all-new, big finned Imperial more than quadrupled and came very close to Lincoln's sales figures for the year. Cadillac's sales were down 5% from 1956, despite the demise of the big Packards - an event which most auto pundits thought would send conservative Packard clients in Cadillac's direction. Looking at the sales data, it appeared that Packard's loss was Imperial's gain.
Postwar Cadillacs were always modern-looking automobiles but ... (more >>>)
Didja Ever Notice This? Quizno's pictures of food look about 700 times better than its real food does.
Danger! Danger! Ann Coulter offers this perspective on terrorists and safety: "ISIS has killed four Americans - in Syria. We're not exactly talking about another 9/11. Here's a tip: If you don't want to be killed by ISIS, don't go to Syria.
Meanwhile, illegal aliens have killed, raped and maimed thousands of Americans - in America.
If you don't want to be killed, raped or maimed by illegal immigrants in your own country, I have no tips for you. There's nothing you can do. You're on your own. Good luck.
Our politicians don't care. They are obsessed with cleaning up the rest of the world, while we're getting our clock cleaned at home."
Quote Of The Day is from Tom McMahon: "If Mrs. Ricardo and Mrs. Mertz hadn't learned how to make up then 'I Love Lucy' would have run for about four episodes."
Wednesday February 25, 2015
Fast Rides: So, how's your February been going so far? For me, not so good.
In early February, I underwent abdominal surgery and was hospitalized for several days.
My recovery seemed to proceeding normally until late last week, when I started hemorrhaging.
After two ambulance rides (with lights and sirens) to two different hospitals and two procedures to try to fix the problem, the bleeding was finally stopped. But I had lost so much blood that I required three transfusions.
I am now recuperating at home, with fingers crossed that the 'fix' holds. Any good thoughts or prayers you'd be willing to offer on my behalf would be most appreciated.
About That Ambulance Graphic: It's a photo of a 1:43 scale diecast ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'The Way Forward' by Paul Ryan
In 2011, Congressman Paul Ryan introduced his 'Path To Prosperity' debt-reduction program - with a stripped-down budget going forward that included sweeping changes to federal expenditures, including entitlement spending. Rep. Ryan was trying to have an adult conversation with America about the looming insolvency of the growing welfare state, and he offered a serious, practical plan to fix it. Sadly, Obama and his Democratic minions in Congress were not interested in logic so Ryan's plan was left to die.
'The Way Forward' is an extension of the logical thinking behind the Path To Prosperity as applied to ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Bill Gates: "Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose."
Friday February 20, 2015
Size Is A Relative Thing: Dan Neil was recently chauffeured around in a $200,000 Mercedes-Maybach S600, a stretched version of the S-class sedan, described by him as "a bulky, humorless juggernaut."
"I hate to generalize, and God knows there are exceptions, but I believe a high percentage of people who own this car will be pompous windbags. I mean, really, how scary does your town car have to be? Imagine it's 9:30 a.m. on a weekday, you are headed south on the 101, palm trees fanning, and you see a Rolls-Royce Phantom or a Bentley Flying Spur. You think, Hey player, whaddup Mariah ... You see this car in the rearview and you think you're being followed by Vladimir Putin."
This 214 inch long sedan is aimed squarely at the Chinese; they will account for 50% of the sales of the M-M S600.
On the other hand, the Mercedes-Maybach S600 is more than four inches shorter than a 1995 Lincoln Town Car.
Not big enough for ya? Well, there's always the Mercedes-Maybach Pullman. At roughly 21 feet long, it's the successor to the legendary Mercedes 600 Pullman (aka the Großer Mercedes) it will be made for dignitaries and heads of state and will cost a fortune.
My 1979 Lincoln Continental Town Car was almost 20 feet long and was the most comfortable and roomy car I've ever owned. In 1992, I paid around $3,200 for this big beast and everything worked.
Who needs a Maybach when there are still some old Town Cars around?
Book Review: 'Dr. Mütter's Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine' by Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz
This book is about medicine as practiced in the early-to-mid-19th Century. The story revolves around Thomas Dent Mütter, a clever, quirky surgical innovator who pioneered plastic surgical techniques and was an early proponent of anesthetics.
If you want to know how primitive medicine was in The Good Old Days, this is the book to read. You'll learn about ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from legendary retailer John Wanamaker: "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the trouble is, I don't know which half."
Wednesday February 18, 2015
Make It, Ship It, Sell It:
The first shipment of new 1946 Hudsons left the Detroit plant in September, 1945 and were loaded into New York Central Railroad boxcars. (permalink)
Party No More: 'It's My Party' singer Leslie Gore has died of lung cancer at age 68.
Restaurant Review: Golden Tent Mongolian BBQ; Vancouver, WA
After a hard day of massacring and pillaging, Genghis Khan and his horde of Mongols would find a clearing, start a big fire and, after foraging for whatever local game, roots, vegetables and other comestibles were available, would grill them on their metal shields. Thus began the legend of Mongolian barbecue, at least according to some Mongolian restaurant trade groups.
Popularized in southeast Asia in the 1950s, Mongolian barbecue consists of cooking various meats, vegetables and noodles on large, round iron griddles at temperatures of up to 600 degrees. In most Mongolian restaurants, food is placed in bowls as patrons pass through a cafeteria-like line. Bowls are then presented to the grillmaster for cooking.
The grillmaster is often a showman, enthusiastically stirring and flipping the food, often in a Benihana-like frenzy.
When it first opened almost 20 years ago, the Golden Tent was a delight, much cleaner and less seedy than local Mongolian alternatives. Sadly ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical 60 years ago, a liberal 30 years ago and a racist today."
Monday February 16, 2015
A Bit Of Red For Valentine's Day: This white convertible with red trim is a 1:43 example of the rare fiberglass-bodied Volvo P1900 Sport. Only 68 examples were ever made. The car was built on a tubular-steel chassis and used the Volvo PV444's 1414 cc engine which produced 70 hp.
The diecast model - a gift from my wife - was produced by WhiteBox, a house brand from ... (more >>>)
Repose En Paix: French film actor Louis Jourdan, best known for his roles in 'Gigi', 'Three Coins In The Fountain', 'Can-Can' and the James Bond movie, 'Octopussy', has died at age 93.
Financial Planning Help: Jonathan Clements of 'The Wall Street Journal' has speculated that there will soon be great changes in the world of financial advisers.
He wrote, "For the past decade, fund investors have eschewed actively managed funds, those that aim to beat the market. Instead, they have poured money into passively managed index funds, which seek to replicate the performance of a market average.
That shift has driven down investment costs. But even as fund expenses have fallen, one cost has held remarkably steady: the price paid for financial advice.
Will we see an end to the standard 1% of assets charged each year by many financial advisers? My hunch: Traditional advisers won't cut their fees - but they'll need to beef up their offerings or risk losing clients to low-cost online advisers."
In my view, there are six sources of advice ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is From Morgan Housel of 'The Motley Fool': "Investors want to believe in someone. Forecasters want to earn a living. One of those groups is going to be disappointed. I think you know which."
Thursday February 12, 2015
It Looks Like A Trip To Canada Is In My Future: In my view, British-made chocolates, such as Cadbury bars, Yorkie Bars and Maltesers, just plain taste better than American-made chocolate. But, in the alleged Land of Free Trade, we'll no longer be able to buy them. Sad, because I'm quite a fan of the chocolate malted milk balls known as Maltesers.
"As a result of a settlement with the Hershey's Company, Let's Buy British Imports, or L.B.B., agreed this week to stop importing all Cadbury's chocolate made overseas. The company also agreed to halt imports on KitKat bars made in Britain; Toffee Crisps, which, because of their orange packaging, and yellow-lined brown script, too closely resemble Reese's Peanut Butter Cups; Yorkie chocolate bars, which infringe on the York peppermint patty, and Maltesers."
Jeff Beckman, a representative for Hershey's ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'Predator: The Secret Origins of the Drone Revolution' by Richard Whittle
This book covers the development and implementation of the Predator drone, a weapon that drastically changed modern warfare in an age where the enemy doesn't wear uniforms and hides among civilians.
Remote guided vehicles were once dismissed by military in most countries as fragile toys. The story begins with a driven ... (more >>>)
Headline Of The Week is from The Rumsford Meteor: 'Brian Williams Taking Time Off to Look for the Blue Max NATO Gave Him for Shooting Down Bin Laden'.
Question Of The Day: If Wile E. Coyote had enough money to buy all that Acme crap, why didn't he just go out and buy his own dinner?
Tuesday February 10, 2015
Among My Souvenirs: Whenever we travel, I try to pick up an auto-themed souvenir. I'm not talking about tasteless crap, such as a cheap die-cast generic stretch limo with 'I Love New York' emblazoned on the sides via tampo printing. A shelf full of these was inexplicably being sold next to Statues of Liberty, miniature Empire State Buildings and Liberty Bells at a souvenir shop in Philadelphia during our last visit. I guess there wasn't enough Philly detritus to fill the shelves.
On the other hand, the chance to acquire a short-run model of a 1949 Fordson 5CWT van, with the 'London Toy and Model Museum' name and logo on the side was a real opportunity and, since it was made in England - not some obscure Asian nation, I gladly bought one, when we first visited ... (more >>>)
Radio Days: In this age of connectivity, you probably don't think much of radios but, in the 1920s, they were considered a household luxury and by the mid-1930s, occupied a coveted spot in America's living rooms, which were usually called parlors.
During the mid-1920s, Philadelphia-based Atwater Kent radios was the world's leader in radios. AK spent $500,000 in advertising in 1924 and the firm's radio show, 'The Atwater Kent Hour' was the most popular show on radio.
Founder Arthur Kent was an electrical genius of sorts ... (more >>>)
Restaurant Review: Famous Dave's; Portland, OR
Dave Anderson founded Famous Dave's in 1994 in Wisconsin. He also helped found Rainforest Cafe, so I hold that against him. There are now about 200 Famous Dave's locations throughout the U.S.
I used to like going there and enjoyed their food. Now ... not so much. At a recent lunch, I found the beef in their brisket sandwich to be dry and tasteless. It was fine once I smothered it in barbecue sauce but one shouldn't have to do so to get good flavor ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Greg Gutfeld: "The idea of tolerance - a seemingly innocuous concept - has now become something else entirely: a way to bludgeon people into shutting up, piping down, and apologizing, when the attacked are often the ones that hold the key to common sense."
Wednesday February 4, 2015
January Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were at a 16.55 million SAAR last month - up 8.9% from January 2013 and down 1.5% from the 16.80 million annual sales rate last month. Sales were driven by low gasoline prices that fueled truck sales as well as easier credit. Kelley Blue Book said transaction prices of new light vehicles are up 5% compared with a year ago to $33,993. Factory utilization is at an all-time high, according to WardsAuto.com. Life is good for most auto companies.
In an era of low fuel prices, it was not a good month for fuel sippers. Sales of the little Chevrolet Sonic fell 47%, while the Ford Fiesta dropped 17%. Sales of the Toyota Prius were flat. On the other hand, sales of the Cadillac Escalade jumped 136% in January and Ford Mustang sales increased a whopping 124%.
General Motors led all automakers, accounting for 17.7% (202,785 vehicles, up 18%) of the month's LV sales, followed by Ford Motor Co. (15.2% share, 177,441 vehicles, up 16%) and Toyota (14.8%, 169,994 vehicles, up 16%). Fiat Chrysler, which along with GM was bailed out by taxpayers in 2009, has been the fastest-growing car maker in America due to demand for its Jeep (+23%) and Ram (+21%) brands. FCA's total sales were up 14% to 145,007 last month.
Sales of Lexus soared 31%, followed by GMC - up 29%. Lincoln sales increased 11%, while Cadillac sales rose a modest 3%.
Subaru sales jumped 24%, while Buick and Smart sales dropped by more than 5% each. Jaguar sales fell 6%, while sales of Bentley automobiles dropped a whopping 50% to 96 cars. 77 Rolls Royces found buyers in January - a gain of 3%.
Book Review: 'Ford In Miniature' by Randall Olson
This large, color-photo-filled softcover book as lots of high-resolution photos and information about miniature models of American Ford, Mercury and Lincoln vehicles, most of them produced in 1:43 scale as limited-production, white metal models. The author is knowledgeable about the models themselves, the full-size vehicles they represent and the model car manufacturers. It was an educational and informative read for me. If you like model cars, I'd recommend it.
I had just found out about Olson's book, even though it was printed over eight years ago. I received it as a Christmas present. Reading the book illustrated the tumultuous changes which have occurred in the model car business since this book was written.
Many of the active manufacturers discussed in the book have disappeared or gone dormant. I'd guess that close to half the scale model retailers listed in the appendix have closed or have substantially downsized. Internet retailing, the rise of specialty made-in-China resin models and competition from a proliferation diecast model offerings has turned the white metal handbuilt market on its head.
Online magazine Model Auto Review noted that ... (more >>>)
Found Files: I was looking through some files last week - real paper files in actual, not virtual, folders - and found several car drawings from 1989 and 1992 which I had forgotten all about.
I cleaned up two of them and posted them on the appropriate AutoSketch pages. They are three-quarter front view renderings of two fifties concept cars: the 1953 Lincoln XL-500 and the 1956 Mercury XM Turnpike Cruiser.
In addition, I posted a reprint of a 1959 'Mechanix Illustrated' article about the Portland Zooliner on my Aerotrain page.
Blogging Reflections: James Lileks wrote, "Anyway. Routine is the Bleat, no? For me and for you. I can't imagine not doing this, and I hope you can't imagine not expecting something.
I mention this because Andrew Sullivan announced he was retiring from blogging today, and given his longevity this was seen by some as one of the great tent poles of the Golden Age of Blogging toppling over. Perhaps. The notion of individual sites with individual voices has been replaced by aggregators and listicles and Gawker subsites with their stables of edgy youth things, and public squares like Medium where dross and gold abound.
But there will always be a place on the internet for individual sites like this one, because there is nothing from stopping all the rampant egotists from braying bytes over this matter or that. I've always been a diarist, and this iteration happens to be public."
Next month The Bleat will celebrate 18 years. Congratulations, James. Like Mr. Lileks, I write for me; if my writing pleases my blog audience, that's a great side benefit.
As for Andrew Sullivan, he's such a fame-whore that he'll be appearing elsewhere in cyberspace, I'm sure. And running another of his 'Pledge Drives'. Once upon a time, Sullivan's site was worth reading. That time has long since passed; some of his writing became so shrill and irrational that I wondered if he had the dementia which sometimes accompanies long-term HIV. I stopped reading Sullivan years ago.
Quote Of The Day is from H.L. Mencken: "Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage."
Monday February 2, 2015
The Ubiquitous Kim: Dan Neil knows how to write an attention getting headline. My eyes popped when I saw 'Ford GT: The Kardashian Effect'.
"Nearly all the current crop of mega-sports cars - LaFerrari, Porsche 918, McLaren P1, among them - have ample behinds. The Kardashian Effect is due to the fact that these cars run very hot and very fast.
They need their great behinds to gather air for engine induction at the same time allowing air to pass through the intercoolers and exit from grilled extractors at the rear. Also whatever active aero rear spoiler there might be needs to be broad and high, to better affect downforce, which you need if you're going to rip around at 200 mph. And while satisfying the demands for efficient downforce and cooling, designers still have to vent exhaust gases out of the car, and thus these cars' prodigious, cartoony exhaust ports.
That's a lot of packaging to get into the rear of the car, which can tend to make them look, well, hippy (for a more slim-hipped version of the same issue, consult a picture of the new Acura NSX, or even Pagani Huayra.) In the GT's case, the broad-beam effect is magnified by its remarkable rear-wheel side pods, which are set off from the canopy by the sharp-edged flying buttresses (the use of a compact pushrod suspension design makes the GT's side pods possible).
Are all those buttresses edges, you know, DOT-approved? "Absolutely," said Ford's vice president of design Moray Callum. "It passes all safety with flying colors."
But it still might break the Internet." Heh.
Least Surprising Announcement ... since David Ogden Stiers came out of the closet: After months of speculation, "a source close with the family" has confirmed that Bruce Jenner, Kim Kardashian's stepfather, is undergoing a transition to become a woman. And, of course, a reality show about it is planned.
What did you expect? Kris Jenner cut his balls off long ago. And he's been repeatedly on the top ten 'Men Who Look Like Old Lesbians' list, usually between Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler.
Hatred & Welfare Two-Step: Canadian blogger Kathy Shaidle has written that there's not much difference between a typical prayer service at a Toronto mosque and a KKK meeting, except that she's "not forced to pay for Klan members’ welfare cheques, and phony disability for their four wives." In the example cited, the Imam's sermon was just as hate-filled and unapologetic as the most arrogant Alabama Kleagle.
Kathy also mentioned this: "I know for a fact that hundreds of Somalis and other Muslim immigrants in the Toronto area are getting social assistance even though they are not qualified, and that this has been pushed through by local politicians.
Anyone who alerts the police or the Ministry to these abuses is told that no such complaints will ever be investigated, and to keep their mouths shut."
The dance of political correctness and free money for those who don't embrace our values must stop. Want to solve our "Muslim problem" in the U.S.? Simply cut off all welfare benefits to non-citizens. Revoke all 'refugee' status to all immigrants. Watch all the disgruntled Somalias and other on-the-dole, troublemaking Muslims suddenly self-deport to more welfare-friendly nations. Watch all the illegal Mexicans and Central Americans do the same.
Those immigrants who came to America looking for a better life - Muslim, Mexican or whatever - and have demonstrated it by getting paying jobs and embracing our culture and values will stay and will work even harder. Those are the kind of folks America wants.
Trouble In Toy Town: Mattel CEO Bryan Stockton has resigned from the helm of the toy giant just weeks after announcing a corporate reshuffle aiming to restore the fortunes of the struggling Barbie manufacturer.
A recent study released by the National Retail Federation showed Mattel's 56-year-old pony-tailed fashionista had been dethroned as the top girls toy for the first time in the survey's 11-year history by Frozen merchandise.
At least Barbie's not as skeezy as those Bratz dolls. On the other hand, since a lot of male adults grew up with Barbie, maybe Mattel should sell a blow-up version of her in those ... ahem ... 'adult stores'.
If Obama Had A Son ... he might look like this: Police are looking for a 21-year-old man who bears a resemblance to a young Barry O. and goes by the moniker "Baby Obama" who may have been involved in an aggravated robbery that happened last month.
RIP: Rod McKuen, the husky-voiced 'King of Kitsch', whose oft-trite music, verse and spoken-word recordings in the 1960s and '70s won him Oscar nominations and made him one of the best-selling poets in history, has died at 81 of pneumonia.
Writer and literary critic Nora Ephron once said, "For the most part, McKuen's poems are superficial and platitudinous and frequently silly."
But I'll always remember him for 'The Mummy'. In 1959, McKuen released a novelty single with Bob McFadden under the pseudonym Dor on the Brunswick label called 'The Mummy', a two-minute novelty record. I have the original 45 rpm version. Bob McFadden voiced the title character with McKuen playing the beatnik: "Oooooh, man, I don't dig that jazz ... you know, Brubeck, Shearing, Modern Jazz Quartet."
McKuen claimed that Bill Haley & His Comets were the band used in the recording session.
McFadden, who died in 2000, went on to voice-over fame, as the voice of Franken Berry in cereal commercials, as well as '60s TV cartoon characters Milton the Monster, Cool McCool and Snarf on 'ThunderCats'.
McKuen wrote the 1969 hit song 'Jean', which was made famous by the singer Oliver.
Super Bowl XLIX (ph: Ix-Licks): I was surprised at the general unimpressiveness of the commercials. The two best ones were Skittles: 'Settle It In The Usual Way' and Fiat: 'Viagra Pill'.
Bad Pun Of The Day: Deja Moo - the feeling that you've heard this bull before.
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