Sunday, November 8, 2009

Crosstour Confusion

OK, we all make errors on occasion and yesterday The Detroit News review of the 2010 Honda Crosstour featured photos of the new European Accord by mistake. The descriptions that "it looks better in person than the photographs" must ring true when, by this morning, the errant photo had been replaced with the real design dud from Honda.

Dodge Viper Logo

Too much time on your hands and this is what happens. The Dodge Viper logo turned upside down and what do you have?

That's dithpicable!!!!!!!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Still Scary!

Glad you had your camera...

Yes, grandfather is getting along in years but he is keeping up with technology... sort of. This is global GPS if I have ever seen it.

OK, maybe for a leisurely drive to the neighborhood 7-11, but no interstate please.

"No problem. Just continue down Milson road and take a right at Tomeka. The on ramp for I-45 will be on your right, about a quarter mile. You'll have the refrigerator home in no time."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

When accidents aren't accidents.

A single driver on a straight road hits a tree at 70 mph and dies. No skid marks. Dry conditions. Officers at the scene list the cause of death as improper driving. But was it?

Police have long theorized that many such otherwise inexplicable crashes are actually disguised suicides. And many researchers believe that suicides disguised as traffic accidents are far more prevalent than previously thought. However, the information necessary to conclude that the driver's intent was to terminate his/her life is generally unavailable and must be proven. Even when suicide is strongly suspected but a suicide note is not found, the case will be classified an "accident."

While there are few studies to substantiate "autocide," sociologist David Phillips of the University of California, San Diego, offered the most solid evidence yet that a number of suicides deliberately drive to their deaths in the family car.

Phillips' study stemmed from a paper he published in 1974 arguing that some suicides were clearly imitative: in the weeks following a prominent suicide, the number of ordinary Americans taking their own lives rises. Phillips later reasoned that if the automobile was a suicide weapon, traffic deaths should increase after widely reported suicides. He analyzed California traffic fatalities from 1966 to 1973, comparing figures for ordinary weeks with statistics for weeks following suicides that were highly publicized in the state, including those of Playwright William Inge, Japanese Novelist Yukio Mishima and California Wine Maker A. Korbel. Phillips' finding: on the third day after such a suicide, auto fatalities rose by 30%; they leveled off for the week at 9% above normal. "In general," notes Phillips, "the more publicity given to the suicide story, the more the number of auto fatalities rises."

One large-scale community survey among suicidal persons provided the following numbers: "Of those who reported planning a suicide, 14.8% had conceived to have a motor vehicle “accident”. Of all attempters, 8.3% had previously attempted via motor vehicle collision.

A second study (Schmidt, Perlin, Towns, Fisher, & Shaffer 1972) led to considerable speculation that a significant albeit unknown proportion of vehicular deaths classified as accidents are in fact suicides. As they argued, the single-car, single-occupant fatal crash is especially suspect and constitute from 1.6% to 5% of all vehicular fatalities.

Except for the Depression year of 1932, the current suicide rate in the U.S. is the highest in history.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Breaking News We Already Knew.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;
All the king's horses,
And all the king's men,
Couldn't put Humpty together again.

Headlines everywhere this morning are announcing that the government's Auto Task Force was shocked by the financial state of GM and Chrysler.

In a first-person account posted on Fortune's Web site Wednesday, Steven Rattner, head of the Task Force, said he was alarmed by the "stunningly poor management" at the Detroit companies and said GM had "perhaps the weakest finance operation any of us had ever seen in a major company."

GM's board of directors was "utterly docile in the face of mounting evidence of a looming disaster and former GM chairman and chief executive Rick Wagoner and his team seemed to believe that virtually all of their problems could be laid at the feet of some combination of the financial crisis, oil prices, the yen-dollar exchange rate and the UAW," Rattner wrote.

"We were shocked, even beyond our low expectations, by the poor state of both GM and Chrysler. Looking just at the condition of GM's finances and Chrysler's new-car pipeline, the case for a bailout was weak." Rattner said the task force was divided on whether to save Chrysler. Chrysler was poorly run during its alignment with Daimler AG, and "larded up with debt, hollowed out by years of mismanagement, Chrysler under (private equity firm) Cerberus never had a chance."

"But on the other hand, as we surveyed the interconnected web of finance companies, suppliers and related businesses, the potential impact of the likely alternative -- liquidation -- stunned us. We imagined that the collapse of the automakers could devastate the Midwest beyond imagination."

As I have written in earlier posts, GM's gross sales steeply tanked for the past 10 years with a cumulative loss of over $80 billion. How on earth, then, could anyone be shocked at the financial condition of the company? If there was anything surprising, it was Rattner's revelation that Rick Wagoner, delusional and perhaps even psychotic towards the end, actually thought he deserved to stay at GM's helm!

Folks, it's time to get your head out of the sand. GM and Chrysler's chances of survival are less than 50% even after bankruptcy.

GM's response to Rattner? "Looking back doesn't help us with the important work we have in front of us."

Oh yea? Looking back, you might learn how not to run a car company. But that's something we already knew, too.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Top "10" Most Sinister-Looking Cars

This from the editors at Kelly Blue Book via the LA Times. Their comments as to why that particular vehicle was chosen first, and my comments follow in italics. Your comments, please.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
Piercing eyes and a Darth Vader-like mouth give Mitsubishi's world-beating overachiever a visual bark commensurate with its road-shredding bite.

I agree with this choice. I always thought Mitsu chose a mean look to appeal to the target audience... boy racer, no?

Rolls-Royce Phantom
At more than 19 feet long and 5 feet tall, the Rolls-Royce Phantom is a big car. Its imposing size conspires with glaring eyes and a chrome prison-like grille to create a look that's as menacing as a runaway financial institution.

Not sure I am buying into this one. "Imposing," most definitely. "Menacing?" Maybe if the car was painted black and pulling up to a medieval castle on a moonlit evening, but dove-grey on Venture Blvd. for a noon brunch... not so much.

Cadillac CTS
With well-ordered lines, decorative flashes of chrome and eyes that sometimes seem to be looking down on you, the CTS arouses fear and respect like a high-ranking military officer.

Whaaa...? How is this menacing? The car is obviously grinning. The Camaro would have been a better pick from GM.

Ford F-150 Raptor
Maybe it's looking for a good time instead of a victim, but wide fenders, meaty tires, a flashy optional graphics package and an imposing grille that looks in search of a hide to brand make the Ford F-150 Raptor look absolutely wicked.

I'm going with this one, too. Intimidating, you bet. Just wait until my friends in the Outer Banks get thru jacking this one up.

Audi R8
With a front end resembling one big air intake, the Audi R8 can come across with the ferocity of a flying engine. Its focused gaze is rendered even more intimidating by brawn that allows it to reach 60 miles per hour in 4.4 seconds.

True, and true for the appearance of most Audi's, even the A3.

The MAZDA3's smile is more of a menacing grin on the high-performance MAZDASPEED3. Growling with 263 turbocharged horsepower, you can almost hear it saying, in the guttural voice of the Joker from "The Dark Knight": "Ooohhh. You want to play? Come on!"

Clown-like? Yes. As we all know, the new face for the 3 has been relentlessly ridiculed on the blog sites for months for its circus expression. But threatening? I would call it perverse, more like the grin a dirty old man opening his raincoat exhibits exposing himself to school children.

Looking into the rearview mirror, you'll notice how well the Acura TL's raptor-like Xenon High-Intensity Discharge headlights seem to illuminate the road (almost like they're zeroing in on you?).

Since when is "ugly" menacing? Come on guys, this is another "grinner!" Where's the Dodge Challenger in all this?

Infiniti FX50
Looking like a great white shark on wheels, the Infiniti FX50's daunting look comprises angled Bi-Xenon headlights, a gaping, toothy grille and gill-like side vents.

A reasonable pick. Of course, anytime you cantilever the headlights, a car looks hostile. A Mary Kay pink sedan looks ominous with slanted headlights... no?

Mitsuoka Orochi
If the mere thought of snakes makes you shiver, you might find the Mitsuoka Orochi's serpentine stare uncomfortably familiar. Named for a giant mythical Japanese eight-headed snake, the Orochi sports a mouth-like grille, reptilian-looking quad headlights and a wide, triangular-shaped front end that make it appear ready to attack.

In your dreams, perhaps. Who's ever seen one, much less bought one? The most terrifying aspect of this travesty is all the heaping chrome.

Lamborghini Reventon Roadster
The mere sight of a stealth fighter can inspire either extreme excitement or fear and loathing. For those who've come face-to-face with one in attack mode and lived to tell about it, the sight of a stealth-inspired Lamborghini Reventon racing up behind you might be a bit unsettling.

"Unsettling" to the bank account, too.

Small Car. Herculean Accomplishments.

I can think of no car that filled so many holes in a manufacturer's lineup than the Rambler, and did so with such surprising longevity and success. It's an amazing story of living, dying and coming back from the dead that earned this automobile a revered standing in the annals of American car history.

The Rambler was introduced by Nash Motors in the early spring of 1950. It was the brainchild of Nash's president George Mason and became post-war America's first domestic compact. Mason knew there was a segment of the population that would respond to an economical automobile and Nash could make money with it in that segment.

Sitting on a 100-inch wheelbase, the Rambler mimicked the larger Nash senior cars in styling and refinement; most notably the skirted front and rear wheel wells. An odd look today, this design trend captured all the newness a war-weary nation dreamed. First offered only as a 2-door "convertible landau," it featured fixed roof rails and a retractable canvas top. 2-Door coupes, sedans and station wagons all soon followed.

The cars sold well, no doubt the starting price of $1,700 helped.

But the 1950s saw great turmoil in the domestic industry, and independents, such as Nash and Studebaker, were fearful of their future. With limited resources and the huge expense of designing new competitive cars, could they survive against the Big 3?

Driven by those odds, Nash Motors merged with Hudson in 1954 forming American Motors. It was an awkward arrangement, as the aging Hudson line duplicated the Nash line. The Hudson Jet, a competitor to the Rambler, had never sold well.

So the new company co-branded the trusty Nash Rambler with the Hudson logo, and the Hudson dealers would now have a successful compact to sell.

In 1955, the Rambler had a modest face lift and opened up the front wheel wells. An egg-crate grill also refreshed the appearance.

But by the end of 1955, sales of the Rambler had begun to decline. The design was over 5 years old, and newer cars from GM, Ford, and Chrysler made the innocent Rambler look dowdy and out of style. Big cars with heavy chrome were where it was at, and the economical Rambler was lost in the shuffle.

Sadly, the little car was discontinued. Many would miss it.

And our story would end as well, if a nasty economic recession hadn't come about. By 1958, the country's boom times began to vanish. Suddenly the march to "lower, wider and longer" cars fell on deaf ears, and the American public stopped buying it. Ford's Edsel arrived at precisely the wrong time and was dead on arrival. Other large makes floundered.

But George Romney, now president of American Motors, made a surprise addition to the company's '58 line up and reintroduced the lowly Rambler as the "new" Rambler American.

Reviving an obsolete design was unheard of in those days (and still is), but it made sense. Neither time nor money allowed for an all-new design. AMC still had the original Nash tooling, and it had long since been paid for. This allowed the firm to field its import-fighter quickly and cheaply, which promised handsome profits even with low list prices.

And the size slotted in perfectly: a bit bigger than the top-selling foreigners, smaller and thriftier than anything offered by the Big Three. Its low price and good mileage made it a hit, again.

And for another 3 years, The Rambler American continued to sell well. But by 1961 even the management at American Motors realized their mini-gem needed a major overhaul.

But monies were still tight, so a clever restyling, under AMC's styling Vice President Edmund E. Anderson in 1961, kept the aging design reasonably fresh, despite retaining the ancient underpinnings from the original Rambler. The 195.6 cid cast iron six was still standard.

Anderson's restyle resulted in a car that was shorter in its exterior dimensions with an overall length of 173.1 inches, but increased in its cargo capacity. Continuing to ride on the 100-inch wheelbase, the American's new styling was more square (sometimes described as "breadbox") instead of round (or "bathtub"), and the visual connection with the original 1950 Nash model had finally disappeared.

The 1961 model sold well. So well, that a 2-door coupe with the look of a convertible was introduced 2 years later. But in the fast-paced world of automobile stying in the '60s, cars were completely redesigned every two or three years. It was decided that a completely new Rambler American would debut in 1964.

But this concludes a fascinating account of a car that, essentially unchanged except for cosmetic makeovers, was on the showroom floor for over 13 years!

Monday, October 12, 2009

So...How's your day going? #5

Crooks break into your garage to steal your fully-restored '68 vette and fail. Frustrated, they set the garage on fire. The car is totaled. Still think wealth-envy is somebody else's problem?