“And this is good old Boston, the home of the bean and the cod, where the Lowells talk only to Cabots, and the Cabots talk only to God. – John Collins Bossidy
Many of my readers will know I live in the United States, but less will know that I am from Massachusetts. My state is a smaller, but important one on the East Coast, affectionately called “The Hub of the Universe” and the “Cradle of Liberty.” Besides being one of the first settlements of America, it can claim some amazing records, including being the birthplace of 4 presidents, the American Revolution, 121 of the best universities in the world including Harvard and MIT, some of the best hospitals on the globe, and the invention of basketball and volleyball. It is also home to the chocolate chip cookie, the first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas card, the first store Santa, and the first computer and incandescent bulb.
1929 Rolls Royce Springfield Phantom
In the automotive world, Massachusetts is the birthplace of vulcanized rubber, the first push button radio, the first fire truck, the largest federal highway project in the world called the Big Dig, and the only place in the world “where a boat can sail under a train, driving under a car, driving under an airplane.” More importantly, it can claim a place in the birth of the automobile itself, being the home to Charles and Frank Duryea, the first Americans to build a successful commercial automobile and the first to incorporate an American business for the expressed purpose of building automobiles for sale to the public.
Stevens Duryea Type C
Massachusetts has an impressive presence in the history of the automobile, one that I was not fully aware of until I stumbled across an amazing website called Early American Automobiles. Created by a man named Royal Feltner, the website is a detailed collection of facts and photographs of vehicles made in Massachusetts. In all there were about 180 manufacturers in Massachusetts from 1861 to 1930. His website is the most concise collection of facts and pictures I have found on the subject. I recommend checking it out…he even wrote a book on the subject. Here are some of the highlights:
I live in a city called Taunton, and had no idea it had any connection to the automobile. In fact, the Taunton Motor Carriage Company built steam cars here from 1901 to 1904. About 2 miles from my home is a town called Easton MA. In a section called South Easton there were no less than two companies building cars at the turn of the century. The Eclipse Automobile Company and the Easton Machine Company built runabouts and modern style cars called the Morse respectively. Easton is also known for the Ames Shovel Company, manufacturer of the shovels that opened the west.
Marsh Motor Car
In my hometown of Brockton, manufacturers included the Marsh Motor Carriage Company, creating steam cars from 1899 to 1905 before quitting the auto business to focus on making motorcycles. Marsh Motorcycles eventually became the American Car Company and went on to create unique air-cooled runabout cars. The Cameron Car Company built cars in Brockton from 1906 to 1907, and the Pickard Brothers built expensive touring cars there from 1908 to 1912. Finally, the Roader Car Company produced fast little runabouts from 1911 to 1912 about a half-mile from my house. Brockton is also the home of fighters Rocky Marciano and Marvin Hagler, as well as being the first place in the world to have an underground electrical system, installed by Thomas Edison.
Morse Motor Car
Other Massachusetts car companies include the Stanley Motor Carriage Co of Newton Ma, who created a popular line of steam cars and racers. Jay Leno owns a few running examples. Locomobile, a company that built large touring cars had a plant in Watertown MA, before moving manufacturing to nearby Connecticut. The English car company Napier also had a plant in Massachusetts, located in Jamaica Plain. Napier of America originally imported cars from the UK, but eventually built the complete cars in the US until 1912.
1906 American Napier
Two of the most important contributions to the automobile occurred in the western part of the state. In Springfield, the Duryea Motor Wagon Company was the first American company to build gasoline automobiles. Founded by brothers Charles and Frank Duryea, they demonstrated their first “Ladies Phaeton” on September 21, 1893. This car also is heralded as the first successful gas-engine vehicle built in the United States. The brothers went on the create the Stevens-Duryea Company which build cars from 1902 to 1928, and then the Hampden Automobile and Launch Company.
1931 DuPont Model H Merrimac Sport Phaeton
Also in Springfield was the Hendee Manufacturing Company which made the famous Indian cars and motorcycles. Hendee was later purchased by Paul DuPont, who built a line of luxurious DuPont cars. The most well known venture is Rolls-Royce of America. From 1920 to 1930 the company produced over 3000 Silver Ghost and Phantom models, many of which are considered icons of the era. Springfield is the only place outside of Great Britain where Rolls-Royce cars have ever been manufactured.
Eclipse Motor Car
The automobile business in Massachusetts lives on to this day. In Wareham, a town about 10 miles from my home, there is a company called Factory Five Racing that re-creates some of the most iconic American cars ever made. From 1930’s hot rods, to the most popular recreation of the Shelby Cobra and Cobra Coupe, the company is the ultimate producer of the modern kit car. In addition, the company produces finished versions of the GTM supercar, a vehicle that can do 0-60 in about three seconds and is faster than a Ferrari 599 Fiorano.
Factory Five Type 65 Coupe
Massachusetts has an important place in automotive history. This history includes an impressive list of automobile manufacturers as well as a major role in the birth of the American car. Massachusetts is home to great coachbuilders like Waterhouse of Webster MA, builders of fine Packard bodies, and the old Framingham GM plant, builder of the iconic Pontiac GTO.
Pickard Motor Car
Massachusetts has been in the automotive business from 1792, when the Hand Pump Wagon was built at the Boston foundry of Paul Revere right up to present day, with the GTM supercar by Factory Five. It remains an important contributor to the evolution of the automobile.
Article Courtesy of Chris Raymond
Photos Courtesy of earlyamericanautomobiles.com, bitbag.com, abapsupal.blogspot.com, conceptcarz.com, carinpicture.com, factoryfive.com
“Neither love nor evil conquers all, but evil cheats more.” – Laurell K. Hamilton, Cerulean Sins
Halloween may be gone, but it has left me with four pounds of stale Butterfingers and this article. In the spirit of all things macabre, I decided to make a list of the perfect villain cars. Whether you are a local scoundrel with a taste for whiskey and bad behavior, a big time hood looking to break legs for your boss, or some evil super villain with a pool of ill-tempered sea bass with frickin’ laser beams attached to their frickin’ heads…you need the perfect ride. Cruella DeVille in a Volkswagen Beetle or Hannibal Lecter in a Fiat 500 would look ridiculous, so having the right ride is as important as a personal torture chamber.
#12 – Bruce, Finding Nemo – 1959 Buick Invicta
This car looks like Bruce, the shark with its huge toothy grin. The only family this car would be perfect for is the Addams family. It looks pissed, and I think it would have been a better choice for the movie “Christine.” It would be the perfect car for the local hood with anger issues and a penchant for digging up bodies.
#11 – Rev. Henry Kane, Poltergeist II – 1955 Cadillac Series 75 Fleetwood Imperial Sedan
Would there be anything creepier than seeing Reverend Henry Kane driving this car? This is the kind of car where you just know the owner is an insane serial killer. It is menacing from all angles, which could be why it was the ride for great movie villains like “The Godfather” and “Driving Miss Daisy.”
#10 – Louise Fletcher, Flowers in the Attic – 1961 Plymouth Fury
It was a tossup between Louise Fletcher and Faye Dunaway in “Mommie Dearest” for this car. It looks evil in a way that few other cars can. The front looks like a cross between a pissed off 1950’s librarian and one of the “Angry Birds.” Designed by Virgil Exner, it has been the start of great movies like “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Tales from the Crypt.” The creepiest thing about this car is that the Dad drove one on “Leave it to Beaver.”
#9 – Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men – 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado
I love this car. I can’t think of a cleaner, meaner and cooler designed GM product. This would be the perfect car if I was an assassin, or one of those clean up guys like Harvey Keitel’s Winston Wolf in “Pulp Fiction.”
#8 – Sean Penn (Mickey Cohen), Gangster Squad – 1936 Cord 810
I had a tough time with this one. I should go to an evil Jay Gatsby type, or modern vampire. In the end I chose Sean Penn for his portrayal as Mickey Cohen. I figured it would be a great car for a mobster, and considering the nose on this was actually called a “coffin nose,” it would keep up the evil image.
#7 – Joe Pesci, Casino – 1967 Cadillac Eldorado
This is an easy one, since this car was actually in the movie “Casino.” It would be the perfect car for Joe Pesci, Robert DiNero or Ray Liotta. In fact, it would be a great car for anyone who wants to appear dangerous. The size of this car in real life is huge, and the hideaway headlights and egg-crate grill look very menacing.
#6 – Hannibal Lecter, Silence of the Lambs – 1970 Mercedes Benz 600 Pullman Limousine
This is truly the most evil of all cars. Jeremy Clarkson of “Top Gear UK” said that “Owners of this car almost always have access to an air force.” In fact, real life owners of this car include some of the most evil dictators the world has known, as well as the Pope and a couple of Beatles. Since there was always a European flavor to Dr. Lecter, I thought this would fit his lifestyle perfectly.
#5 – Dr. Evil, Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery – 2005 Maybach Exelero
C’mon, if Jay-Z can own one, shouldn’t Dr. Evil? It looks mean, modern and a little crazy, which makes it the perfect car for the outrageous star of the “Austin Powers” movies. Plus, there is room for Mini Me and Mr. Bigglesworth…it’s only a two seater. Cost? Just one Billion dollars….mhwaaahaaahaaahaaa
#4 – Felonius Gru, Despicable Me – 1938 Phantom Corsair
Gru needed a comic looking evil car, and the closest thing was this Phantom Corsair. Even the name sounds spectral, and it looks like it would be equally at home on the road as it would in the sky. Originally intended as a six passenger, it is estimated to hold about 43 minions not including ray guns.
#3 – Gary Oldman, Bram Stoker’sDracula – 1930 Mercedes Benz 710 SSK “Count Trossi” Roadster
This is more than just a classic; this is a work of art. It was the last Mercedes designed by Ferdinand Porsche, and build specifically for Didi, as the Count was known. Trossi was the former president of Scuderia Ferrari, and loved this car so much that he bought, sold and repurchased it several times though out his life. Presently, it is owned by the evil super-villain, Ralph Lauren.
This is the car that every true evil villain should aspire to, and I thought it was fitting for Ms. DeVil what with her Luciferous name. The Bucciali is the perfect cartoon/movie baddie car, with its low brow and hulking wheel arches. The touches of red trim along the beltline and wheels looks like dried blood, and the winged swan looks a little like a fallen angel. Less than a handful of these cars survive, including one which sported two (2) Continental straight eights mounted side by side. Evil personified.
#1 – Monty Burns, The Simpsons – 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Jonckheere Aerodynamic Coupe
The number one most evil car on our list is this custom bodied Rolls-Royce. It is the only one known to exist. The car was re-bodied by Jonckheere of Belgium almost 10 years after production into this masterpiece. Though the car is almost 90 years old, the lack of bumpers and the low sweeping lines makes it as modern looking as a new Phantom. The highlight is the round “porthole” doors and the long center fin. If I were a super-villain, vampire, or world class evil-doer, this would be the car for me.
As a note, I would love to hear your suggestions on evil looking cars, or who would be the better match to the cars on this list. Contact me through comments, via email (listed on about page) or though Twitter and Facebook.
Article Courtesy of Chris Raymond
Photos Courtesy of Google images, Wikipedia, boldride.com and Flikr.
The summer night is like a perfection of thought – Wallace Stevens
Now that summer has officially started, I decided to take a look at eBay and see what they had to offer in the way of summertime cruisers. When I was younger, I had a perfect 1976 Oldsmobile 98 Regency Hardtop, and I loved to gather up the family and head off to the local ice cream shop on a hot summer night. Classic cars and especially convertible classics are the best cars for summer. Taking a sunset cruise along the beaches and small towns of Cape Cod in a 1950’s classic is something everyone should do. So here are some great eBay finds for anyone looking to have an amazing summer.
1960 Buick LeSabre – $9,700. This is an excellent condition Buick sold and owned in the same Lakeland Florida neighborhood for the past 53 years. The color makes this car a classic, and removes the darker aura given off by the front and rear styling cues. With a brand new interior, this car is ready for a nice summer car show.
1970 Buick Electra 225 – $5,200. Another stunning Buick, this time in Jade Green with a white roof. This custom 4-door hardtop is pillarless, and has only 17,800 miles on the odometer. Equipped with a 455/370hp V-8, it can cruise all day in style. It even comes with the original 8-track player.
1955 Chevrolet Bel Air 210 – $10,156. This stunningly restored Chevy is a perfect summer cruiser. It sports a 350cid V-8, dual exhaust and even an Alcantara “suede” interior. Formerly owned by Lloyd MacKay, NHRA racer and collector, this car was fully restored and has every power option.
1960 Chevrolet Impala – $25,300. This Chevy is more subdued than the outrageous 1959 model, and sports aircraft inspired side trim, and subtle ‘bat wing” tail fins. With only 5,331 miles, this car is a truly amazing example. It has the perfect color combination for the ultimate summer cruising car.
1959 Pontiac Bonneville – $15,000. Nothing says summer like a teal and white Pontiac. This car was the King of the Hill at Pontiac, and was built at the height of the golden age for cars. The Bonneville sports a 389 tri-power V-8, a wide track design and Pontiac’s new gyro level ride suspension, giving it the best handling performance of any 1959 full size car.
1972 Pontiac Catalina – $18,100. One more from Lakeland Florida, this car has only 30,296 miles and sports a 400ci V-8. This is an absolutely gorgeous example of a perfect summertime cruiser. With a perfect interior, and the colors of a perfect blue sky, this car would be great for a nighttime top-down cruise.
1957 Oldsmobile Super 88 – $12,000. Our friends in Lakeland Florida always find the best cars, and this one is astounding. This Super 88 has only 28,000 miles, and is finished in a stunning Platinum Mist Poly Metallic, and sports a 371 Golden Rocket V-8. The car came from a New Jersey collection and is mostly all original. The tri-window roof treatment and the stunning chrome side rails make this car a real head turner. This is the perfect car to impress everyone at the local car show.
1967 Mercury Cougar – $8,600. This is a truly elegant example of this pony car, finished in light beige with a medium saddle interior. Powered by a 289ci V-8 this Cougar is a solid, no-rust original car. The color of this car highlights the cat-like styling making it one of the prettiest examples available today.
1956 Lincoln Premier – $15,500. This is a magnificent automobile, and is selling for much lower than market due to the fact that it is a faux convertible. This Premier started life as a coupe, and lost its roof during a major redesign, including major body reinforcement. Finished in a non-original Pearlescent White with a luxurious red leather interior, the effect is stunning.
1976 Lincoln Continental Town Car – $5,100. Think of this as buying a huge summer mega-yacht for the price of a runabout. This beautiful Town Car has only 59,517 miles and sports a 460ci V-8 engine. Though not as light and airy as a convertible, it still is an excellent car for long summer drives.
1966 Chrysler 300 – $7,800. This car is an amazing example of a great Elwood Engel design. The car is -presented in a special order two-tone paint of black over dolphin gray with a black leather interior, the overall effect is dramatic. The car has 80,300 miles and sports a 383cid V-8, and is mostly original. The paint and condition make this 300 a beautiful example of 1960’s styling.
1961 Cadillac DeVille Convertible – $20,987. For the ultimate summer land yacht, nothing beats a Cadillac. This spectacular example is finished in Laredo Tan with saddle interior, matching saddle top and comes complete with Coker wide whitewalls and factory correct turbine wheels. If you want to turn heads when you are taking that sunset cruise, this is the car for you.
That is my list of some great cruising cars for summer. Let me know what car makes your list and let me know your memories of the perfect summer drive.
If you are a regular reader of this site, you may have noticed that I recently took some time off from my writing duties. It seems that with the weather, the holidays, and the cold, my motivation level wasn’t what it used to be. In order to cover things up, I reposted some old articles and hoped for the best. Well…things are getting back to normal here, and I should be updating things with the regularity of the past. So, thanks for staying with me.
First, some housekeeping. I am always looking for ideas on what to include on the site, and would greatly appreciate any comments or suggestions. I am also looking for anyone who may be interested in posting their own articles and photos. If you are interested, please send me an email at email@example.com.
This week, I have decided to post some photos from around the net showing the snowpocalypse that is making life difficult for most of the country. Included are some favorite photos from failblog.org, which is a great site to waste time on if you are housebound. The rest of the photos are from around the world, and include some great shots of the mess the snow made in Chicago, and an amazing car accident from New Hampshire.
Photos courtesy of failblog.org, thatwillbuffout.com, jalopnik.com.
Recently, I started talking to car designers, asking for information about their projects, the environments they worked in, and car design culture. The responses were interesting, in that most were concerned about their jobs and did not want to be identified. It was surprising that the same people who designed the Chevy Malibu, could not comment on their work for fear of retaliation. The present culture is one of people who have witnessed their friends fired from jobs, and who think they could be next. It is fear and loathing in the design studio.
John, our first designer, worked for GM, and was immediately turned off on big corporate car design. He worked on advanced design, new production techniques, and in the energy efficient sectors, but could not be more specific. For him, GM had an environment of waste and fear. Thousands of dollars spent on items for the mock up of a car, and yet pennies pinched on the final product. The environment made no sense to him as a designer, or as a consumer.
GM was the only company John wanted to work for, but when he got there in the early 1990’s he discovered a company that made poor choices in how they executed vehicles and spent resources. GM was making disposable cars, not the classics and icons of his youth.
He eventually realized that he needed to search for a design firm that had a similar attitude towards design as his own. Not satisfied with committees and bean counters, who distorted designs beyond recognition, he realized auto design was actually a small, closed world, where it was difficult to find work.
John felt that GM stifled much of the creativity needed for new designs, and the intense time constrains made success difficult. He summed it up best when he said, “A car designer left to his own devices will produce a 1966 GTO. A car designer under the control of a committee will produce a 2006 GTO.” He now works on industrial design projects.
There are still magical places where the designer rules, but not in the American auto industry. It is only through innovative design, and quality products, that Detroit will finally shake off its troubles.
Article Courtesy of Chris Raymond
Photos courtesy of GM, Ford, Chrysler, and Google Images
Today I decided to finally add some of the pictures I had taken at local car shows. There seems to be a show every night of the week, and the pictures are starting to pile up. Most of them are from smaller shows in my area, but a few are from the massive Foxboro “Patriots Place” show that happens every other week.
I love going to the shows because I like to bring my Jaguar, which never seems to fit properly among the other cars. I always am stuck amongst the muscle cars, looking rather silly. It is rare to see a British car at any show, so people can never identify its make, even with the badging. It is perceived as some renaissance fair throwback, or an alien spaceship. Either way, the people never go near it.
Every show has Mustangs, and lots of them. I know Ford sold a ton of them over the years, but it seems every single one has been “souped up” and put out for show. In Foxboro, there were probably 200 of them, all the same decade, and all red, yellow or black. I like Mustangs, but I don’t need to see them all at the same time.
The people are one reason why I go there. Everyone says they go to car shows for the camaraderie, but they really go for the competition. Even when there are no prizes, you can see people sizing up their neighbors. Most people are pretty good to talk to, but sometimes you do get idiots. I asked one guy about his Amphicar, and he acted like I asked for Whitey Bulger’s home address (Whitey is a big fugitive from MA). I guess strange people are allowed to buy cars too.
Mustang groups are in love with their engines, and love to burn rubber. When they aren’t racing their engines, they are usually racing their mouths. They all dress like the band Korn, and generally hang around only with other Mustang people, which is fine by me. Usually, I skip most of them, having seen it all before. The import tuners are another group that sticks together. They park their cars with every door open, flash some seizure inducing lights, and blast the 1000-watt stereo with the latest gay club tune. I avoid them at all costs, for my own safety.
Muscle car guys are usually tattooed, middle class, and loud. I risk drifting by the cars, but usually don’t stay for long. Classic car guys bring the old stuff from the 1950’s and earlier. They always seem to have a built in club at every event. Some are older and bring the wives, who sit around in circles making snide comments about each other’s outfits. Ask a classic car guy a question about his car, and you can plan on spending the night listening to them yap. They know everything, and don’t mind telling you.
The group I like is the antique guys. They are the ones that dragged out the Model T, cranked it up, and loaded the entire family into the back. They love the cars, but wont bore you with the details on how they rebuilt the engine using metal they smelted themselves. They are more fun, and much easier to walk away from.
Finally, we get to the custom rod guys, who bring us cars like the Ford T Bucket or the rat rod. They know everything about the cars, and generally are the only ones to bring beer to the show. The cars are cool, but if you even imply the wrong thing, then they break out the switchblades. The bikers are another group that I avoid. I have a bike of my own, but I can’t stand the loud pipes. Some of these bikes could deafen a corpse, and they always look like they are dealing drugs. I know this is a stereotype, and not all of them are drug dealers…but they do look like they have seen one too many episodes of “Sons of Anarchy.” How is it that every biker in the world has the same jean vest, and I have never seen one on sale anywhere?
One thing you rarely see at a car show is an attractive girl. The last show I went to had one woman who looked like she just brought her Olds Delta 88 directly from church, and another who looked like she just finished doing body shots at Sturgis. There is never anything in between. I think there should be a category for attractive girls and their cars. It would certainly make things more interesting, though I doubt the freaks in the Mustangs could be trusted to behave appropriately.
I’ll post some more car show pictures soon. Thanks for looking, and if you own a Mustang… I’m just kidding.
This week I wanted to showcase some vehicles that are both nostalgic and unusual. I have never posted about trucks before, but they reminded me of a time when style and function met in a very beautiful way. Many of the vehicles featured have modern counterparts, but none have the panache and ingenuity of these classics.
From a simple bus that carried passengers around Yellowstone National Park, to a standard dump truck, the modern equivalents lack the character and style of the classics. Partly due to the period of automotive design at the time, and partly due to the desire to set the industry or company apart from the competition, these vehicles remain some of the most beautiful trucks I have seen. This world would be a more interesting place if truck design continued providing us with functional, but astounding design.
Most interesting of the group is the streamliners, popular during the art deco era. These are not only beautiful, but provided improved efficiency for the owners. Today, many trucks are streamlined, but they lack the fashion sense of the original models. In no particular order, here then is a grouping of some of my favorite models.
Article Courtesy of Chris Raymond
Photos courtesy of ebay.com, pinterest.com, blog.hemmings.com, forums.aaca.org, bringatrailer.com, timbren.com, Google Images
“Speed has never killed anyone. Suddenly becoming stationary, that’s what gets you.” – Jeremy Clarkson
UPDATE – It should be noted that the BBC never did bring back Jeremy Clarkson. He continues on in a deal with Amazon, creating a show called The Grand Tour…which is shaping up to be everything Top Gear was, but better. I have reprinted this article as a reminder of how special Jeremy, James and Richard were, and still are.
This week I need to address an international crisis that has occurred, one that threatens to destroy the future of television, journalism and the freedoms we hold dear. I am speaking, of course about the BBC’s suspension of Jeremy Clarkson.
In the rare case that you have been stuck in a tent somewhere in Antarctica, let me give you some background to the “slap heard round the world.” Clarkson, co-presenter of the hit television series Top Gear was recently involved in a fracas with one of the show’s producers. The event, described by media as a fight over “catering on-set” occurred in Hawes, North Yorkshire. Basically Clarkson was told that the hotel chef had gone home for the day and on-set catering was not available. Knowing of Clarkson’s behavior in the past, it is expected that a simple disagreement occurred, evolving into a heated argument, and ending with a punch in the face for the insolent producer. Clarkson is a star, after all.
In response, the BBC (British Broadcasting Company) decided to kill the upcoming episode of Top Gear, and announced on its website that it would likely drop the final two episodes of the series. In addition, they suspended Clarkson until an investigation can be completed, and in the process placed a franchise that earns approximately £50 million in jeopardy. Since the decision, support has been building to almost panic levels. Fans, celebrities and even the Prime Minister, David Cameron have all turned into dervishes with their support of Clarkson. A petition, started by Guido Fawkes on change.org has garnered a million signatures, and was delivered (courtesy of the Stig and Fawkes) by TANK to the BBC offices. Twitter and Facebook have been swamped with “Bring Back Clarkson” hash tags and profile photos, and the call is still spreading. In fact, Piece Morgan even wrote an article supporting Jeremy. This is especially funny, since he was a previous face punch victim and Clarkson’s sworn enemy.
Why all the fuss? Let me fill you in on some important statistics. Top Gear is a television automotive magazine show presented by the BBC. The presenters are Jeremy Clarkson (Jezza), Richard Hammond (Hamster) and James May (Captain Slow). Each show also features the anonymous test driver “The Stig.” Top Gear is a BAFTA, Multi NTA, and International Emmy Award winning program. It began in 1977, with Clarkson being the first of the trio to join the show in 1988. In 2002, the show was reworked with the current co-presenters and began its climb into the history books. Top Gear is broadcast in over 170 countries, 212 territories throughout the world…a number that is staggering. Could you even name 170 counties? In fact, it is THE MOST WATCHED TELEVISION SHOW IN THE WORLD. In addition, Top Gear is also the most pirated television show in the world, and ranks in at the second most expensive television show in the world at £1.2 Billion. It is estimated that the DAILY viewership is 750 MILLION viewers, and the show has no less than seven foreign variations presently running, including Top Gear US. The show is so popular that the waiting list to get tickets, just to be in the audience during filming is…wait for it…21 years long.
The success of the show is irrefutable. It is simply the most watched television show in the world. To put the 750 Million DAILY viewers in perspective, AMC’s Breaking Bad record breaking finale garnered only 10.3 million viewers, and the last Superbowl (GO PATS!) had a measly 114.5 million viewers. Beyond its success, Top Gear holds a few major world records.
Clarkson and May are the first people to drive a vehicle to the magnetic north pole.
The Stig was the first person to ever perform a double loop the loop stunt in a car (South Africa).
Accredited by Guinness as the “Most Widely Watched “Factual” Television Show” (2013).
First Automotive show to have a series of stamps made in their honor (Isle of Man).
They also hold many “firsts” and amazing accomplishments for a team of three middle age men. These include:
First to jump an automobile (Mini Cooper) off the Olympic ski jump at Lillehammer.
First to cross the English Channel by water in a pickup truck (Toyota Hilux)
First non-government sponsored rocket launch (Reliant Robin Space Shuttle).
First to drive production cars across Zimbabwe’s Makgadikgadi Pan.
Driving the 1800 km trek from Saigon to Ha Long Vietnam on motorcycles.
Driving the 1000 mile trek from Bolivia to the Pacific Coast of Chile, across the Death Road near Las Pas, the Andean Altiplano and an active volcano with a height of 17,200 feet.
Driving from Iraq to Bethlehem in convertible sports cars during wartime.
Driving from Mumbai to the Chinese border in British vehicles, while almost blowing up the embassy section of Mumbai with a self made firework.
Driving the 1600 mile trek from Patagonia to the most southern city in the world.
Driving across Burma to construct a bridge over the river Kwai (actually was the River Kok).
Discovering the true source of the river Nile in Africa.
Driving a Land Rover up the side wall of a dam to recreate a Land Rover commercial.
All this is combined into a show that features some of the most outrageous and exotic automobiles in the world, filmed in a way that rivals some of the best Hollywood cinematographers, and features hilarious and crazy challenges. Plus, the combination of Clarkson, Hammond and May is priceless. They are simply “car guys.” They have little to no filter, say and do exactly as they please without regard, have little tolerance for the common nuisances and rules of modern life, and seem to be true friends. They enjoy each other’s company, which makes us as viewers want to see them together.
Yes, there are faults. I decided at the end of last season that the end should be near. Jeremy in particular is getting older, plumper and more crotchety as the years pass. Watching a late middle aged man with a paunch manhandle the new Jaguar F-Type Coupe is slightly unsettling. Knowing all of the jokes and quips long before they are spoken, and predicting the wacky outcome of every challenge and adventure has made the show stale. The key to the program has always been the three very different personalities butting heads and being fools. Somewhere, the comedy routines became too rehearsed, too obvious, and the show lost some of its spark. However, the thought of not having Top Gear around is somewhat like knowing you have lost a friend. Top Gear has become something we take for granted, and losing it would be difficult, losing the show under these circumstances would be tragic and funny in a way only Top Gear could have scripted. Jeremy is a dolt, an oaf, a fool and probably can be a rude person. But he has always been that way, and his long history of controversies is well documented. This should have as much importance as the time when he insulted Mexico, or made one of many numerous controversial remarks.
The BBC needs to understand that they hired a untidy wildebeest years ago, and that nothing has changed since. The fact that it has attacked someone (again) should be of no surprise. We need Top Gear…for as long as the guys are around, even if it is predictable, stale and overly scripted. Top Gear is a large part of my life, and I would be heartbroken if it were to end. So, Bring Back Clarkson!
HYANNIS PORT, MA – At one point Bill Putman had 58 cars in his collection. All but one of them is red and all trimmed with “Minuteman Racing” decals, it’s come down to about 40 or so now though. He calls it the “Toad Hall Sports Car Collection” and its located right behind the Simmons Homestead Inn on Cape Cod. My fellow car blogger and friend, Chris Raymond, from Chris on Cars told me about this place and in no time I began making plans for a little Breakdown Lane field trip.
I grew up on the cape so when I learned of it, I just had to go see it. When I arrived I was pretty excited, this guy collects mostly British sports cars but there are a few old Datsun’s, a Mazda, a Porsche, and a couple very interesting American made cars. I parked and had my door open about to exit my car when I was immediately greeted by an overly friendly tiger cat who was very vocal in requesting attention, so I had a follower right off the bat.
It turns out this collection didn’t start to take form until the very year I left the Cape to join the US Navy, 1993. The owner, Bill, greeted me with a smile and without hesitation allowed me to sit in any of the cars, provided I was careful or course. I knew this was going to be worth every penny of the $8 entry fee right then. You never get to sit in the display cars, right? He told me he tries to get them all running a few times a year and I imagine that it is almost too much to handle with so many of them to keep up with. Initially Bill started building his collection to serve both a personal passion and for a financial investment. He operates the Inn and a gift shop along with keeping the car collection open to visitors and that is a lot of work for anyone if you ask me. He was an SCCA racer back in the 70’s and his team was named Minuteman Racing, and he has pretty much put the decals on every car he’s owned since then. There are a few story boards in the entrance that tell the story of the Toad and a little background on Bill himself.
Here’s where this boring story starts to get interesting. As I approached the very first car in the line up outside the barn I was stopped dead in my flip flops, overcome with shock. My expectations were to see high quality restorations but what I found was something very different. My first impressions were focused on surface rust. There seemed to be a lot of it creeping around and infecting the chrome bits like bumpers, wheels and some trim on a lot of these cars. Many of the cars were dirty and the cats have free roam through the barn. I’m sure they keep the mouse at bay, but it’s a bitter sweet exchange. Bill has some really amazing cars in here and they all have so much character in what looks like an unrestored state, although some of them have had work done to them. See the end of this post for a full list, but here are a few that have some significance, at least in my mind. First, I almost lost is when I saw the ’55 Austin-Healey, then I found the 64 Porsche 356, the ’60 Lotus Elite and probably the most valuable car in the barn…an original 1960 AC Cobra, before they were Shelby’s! Take a look, these cars are just amazing.
Another couple of cars that I really loved were the pair of Lotus Esprit’s, an ’88 Turbo and an 87 S2. The crappy part about these cars was simply the dirt and dust. I think the cats really like hanging out in the Lotus’ for some reason. I had posters of these cars on my bedroom wall in Jr High alongside many others. Surprisingly enough, these cars can be had for under $30k and even less for the ones that need some love.
My intentions are not to criticize, but to just tell it the way I saw it. These cars are valuable and they look good, they just need a little love here and there. Looking at all these cars as I was shooting photos, I realized that not all was lost. I quickly overcame my shock and began feeling really impressed with every single car in here. They all appear to be original or at least somewhat preserved. They all look like they could be great drivers with a little sprucing up. I like to see these types of cars when they appear to have been driven with pleasure for years on end then parked. I really enjoyed looking through the interiors. For me, much of the character is in the interior. The gauges and the shiny metal dashboards, old leather and steering wheel tell the story decade’s old driving pleasure. Some of these were full on race cars and I would pay good money to pilot one of the Lotus 7’s he’s got here. I especially a big fan of the ’55 Austin-Healy with the grass growing up through the shifter!
The barn was a low ceiling structure that Bill has had to add onto in order to make more room for cars, the only down fall is the lack of a floor or foundation. The surface is ¾ inch crushed stone and that is probably one of the biggest offenders in the corrosion issue. The barn is filled with automobile related memorabilia and I think every car in there has MA state vanity plates as well. There is a certain element of character that is far more dynamic in an original unrestored car that you just can’t get out of a fully restored one. It’s a look back into the past, a time capsule. Bill has some work to do out in the barn and I hope he can pull it off and keep the rust at bay. He even said it himself; he’s running out of resources to keep up with these cars. I wanted to chat with Bill some more but he had two other businesses on the site he had to run and I didn’t want to impose.
The Toad Hall website showed a few more cars than were here but I suspect that most of the “missing” cars were liquidated in order to preserve the rest of the pack. Not in the collection were a few recent model Lotus’s, a Ferrari Testarossa, a TVR Griffith, a BMW 2002, and a handful of other cars. For such a low entry price you can be sure I’ll stop in again next time I am down on the cape. One of the best parts of the Toad Hall is the fact that it’s pretty quiet in there and you can really get lost sitting in the cars and looking at all the automobilia all over the walls. I think every car in here has its own MA. State vanity plate. He registered every single car. Your mind just takes off from reality and wanders into the past going from car to car. It’s a great trip for any car guy or gal and a really nice change from a typical “untouchable” museum setting. I figured that a list of these cars would be nice and my observations will follow along with some pictures. Click HERE for the full gallery of photos. Below is a list of all the cars that were on site:
British MarquesLotus1960 Lotus Elite1965 Lotus Seven S2
Once again, the team at Chris On Cars has gathered a group of regular car buyers and gave them the task of creating a list of the ugliest cars ever sold in the US. Our experts included people from all social groups, starting with a local used car salesman, an elderly nursing home patient named Ruth, a teen mall rat named (of course) Brittany, and two homeless men that were standing outside a local Methadone clinic. Here is the list they compiled:
Pontiac Aztek – Leave it to the meth heads to remember the car from “Breaking Bad.” This was an easy mark, since everyone on earth agrees it is probably the ugliest car ever made. In fact, it is so ugly that Time magazine named it the 34th worst invention of all time. The plastic side panels make it look like its being shipped somewhere sad.
Nissan Juke – Brittany actually liked this car because it reminded her of Pumba in the Lion King. Obviously designed by someone not blessed with the gift of sight, it is schizophrenic and charming at the same time. It makes me want to smile while vomiting.
Mitsubishi Eclipse – To describe the rear end, our group was reminded of a hugely obese woman, hearses, and hugely obese women in hearses. The grille gives it the surprised look of a blow up doll.
Nash Airflyte – Ruth remembered this car from her youth, and told an unsettling story about how she discovered the seats could be converted to a bed. It also reminded her of a bathtub, but that could be because she was always naked in it. I think it looks like an overinflated parade float, and will never understand why they covered all the wheels, and not the entire car.
61 Plymouth Valiant – The ugliest of all road toads. Every 1960’s styling cue ever created by Detroit is here, fighting to the death on this one car. Overly styled is too polite, this car is an automotive turd, complete with a toilet seat trunk ornament.
56 Nash Ambassador Super – Ambassador is one of the longest lived automobile nameplates in history, and one of the most depressing. These heroically over colored tri-paint monstrosities looked like they were designed in Cold War Moscow, not Wisconsin.
74 AMC Matador Coupe – Car & Driver named this the “Best Styled Car of 1974,” which makes me rate them lower than “Motorweek” on my scale of tasteless crap to avoid. From the strange back slope to the Mr. Magoo eyes, every part of this car looked wrong. Michael Jackson was right to beat the crap out of it in “Black & White.”
96 Mercury Sable – With the looks of a dying flounder, this is the “toned-down” version of the Ford Taurus. Fatter than a week old drowning victim, these cars are mind numbingly ugly. This was a favorite of our used car salesman, who thought it was futuristic and mind numbingly quick…we threw him out after that.
2000 Hyundai Tiburon – Designers figured out they could make it look like a cheap 90’s Celica, or a puzzled over-fed cartoon spider. They chose the latter. The high styling lines ruin the concept of a sporty car, the cheap plastic reeks of poverty, and the overall look is of despair. Auto critics label it as “ugly as balls.”
75 AMC Pacer – South Park’s Eric Cartman in car form. Every square inch is more bizarre than the square inch next to it, and none of them are square. It looks like something lettuce would be sold in. When introduced, it was the darling of the automotive press, but is now scorned as one of the ugliest cars ever made. I think this “mirthmobile” is one of my favorite Teague designs.
Chrysler Crossfire – Jeremy Clarkson was right when he said it looks like a dog taking a crap. Chrysler could have designed a modern version of the Bugatti Type 57 Atlantic or a pretty Morgan Aeromax, instead they built this plastic turd. The cries of people stupid enough to buy one can still be heard.
AMC Gremlin – Designed on an air sickness bag, and introduced to the public on April Fool’s day, this car is another obvious choice. Naming the car after an imaginary creature that causes mechanical failures was at least “truth in advertising.” I have seen uglier things than this, but usually have to pay for the privilege.
99 Pontiac Firebird – This version of the muscle car icon actually performed better than it looked, but the styling is what killed it. The body was cartoonish, and the plastic nose gave it a sense of cheapness matched only by a recycle bin. It is the only car that seemed both aerodynamic and fat at the same time and reminded our experts of a suppository.
98 Nissan Cube – It looks like a bathroom in a modern city park. The car is asymmetrical, with different windows borrowed from a cruise ship on each side. Freaky is the word that best describes this car, and it can only be explained by an overdose of Ambien.
79 Buick Century – This is when styling disappeared from the automotive world. This is not bad styling, this is no styling. One of the ugliest, cheapest, most depressing excuses for an automobile ever created. Every time I see this car I hit someone across the face.
82 Ford EXP – Ford’s ugly little secret was described at the time as having received “a sound beating with an ugly stick” and “unbelievably awkward.” Every aspect of this atrocity is wrong from the noisy and underpowered engine to the fuzzy cheap interior. I have seen riding mowers more comfortable and better styled than this car. It makes me cry.
85 Toyota Van – So ugly they didn’t bother to name it. Available in any color as long as it is ugly. This is a mobile shoebox devoid of style, comfort or any measurable quality. Driving one gave you the constant feeling that it would tip over, even under acceleration.
75 Ford Mustang – The ugliest of all the pretty horses, this car is more of a disappointment than just a bad design. It actually sold almost as many as the beautiful 65 Mustang, was a common as Herpes and as pretty as Gonorrhea.
Another day, another cool set of cars from eBay! Every once in a while, you can find some amazing cars for sale online. Whether you are looking for a used Alfa Romeo, or a brand new Koenigsegg CCXR, you can find it somewhere in the pages of eBay. The ads are enticing, but most of the real deals are crap. Many of the buyers are fake, and there is always a few hundred amazing cars listed for a fraction of it’s true value. I have seen $100,000 dollar muscle cars for sale at $1500.00 dollars, with fake bid numbers and foreign locations. These are the crooks of eBay, and the reason why most of the ads can’t be trusted. When I listed my MGB for sale, 90% of the bids were fake, and I eventually removed the listing. So, if you are not in the market for a car, then eBay is the perfect place for you. Here are some photos of a few beautiful cars that I found. I hope you like them.
If I said to you “I will give you one car, free of charge, as long as its value is less than one million dollars” which one would you choose? This hypothetical question was asked of me recently, and it took a while for me to think of an answer. There was only one catch, and that was that I could not take the car and sell it for money, I had to drive it as my only car.
Quickly, I made my list, and then eliminated most brands to focus on something exotic. I brought the list down to my five top favorites, which included the Ford GT, Morgan Aeromax, Spyker C8 Aileron, Bugatti Veyron, and Pagani Zonda. I decided to leave out some of my other favorites, which included the Ferrari Enzo and Caparo T1, due to maintenance issues. The five I had chosen would be trouble enough.
Out of the five cars, the order is simple, with the Bugatti taking first place, then the Spyker, the Morgan, the Ford and finally the Pagani. I assume I will not get a chance to own any of these cars in real life, so in a hypothetical situation, I had to make a grab for the brass ring, and chose the Veyron.
The Bugatti Veyron is the most technologically advanced car of all time. Everything about the Veyron is massive. It boasts 1001horses, which is equal to 10 Mazda 2’s. It has 16 cylinders, 4 turbos, and 10 radiators, all of which can push it to 253 miles per hour (which it is limited to due to tire wear). The brakes are the size of an entire Ford Focus wheel, and the car can jump to 60mph in less than one sixth of the time it took you to read this sentence (seriously, read it over and think about it). However, the Veyron has a flaw that I forgot about. It costs 1.7 million dollars, and therefore, it was out of the running. Goodbye, my dream car.
That leaves me with the Spyker C8 Aileron. This is the latest car from Spyker, the car company from Holland that recently acquired Saab. The Aileron is the latest version of the C8, which originally came out as the Laviolette. That car was a tribute to the propeller age of flight, and a nod to the original Spyker company history of manufacturing great aircraft. The new car, the Aileron, is a tribute to the turbine age, and almost everything on the car reflects that era.
Without going into too much detail, let me just say that the Spyker is not as fast as a Ferrari or Lamborghini, though it is light and has over 400 horses. It is not a track car made to handle like a Porsche, though its suspension is from Lotus. This is a piece of automotive jewelry, like a blinged out Rolex. It has all the required kibbles and bits to be a great sports GT car, as well as enough polished aluminum to make “Fitty Cents” smile.
I will let the experts rate the car for you with these two videos, which I seriously hope you watch. Suffice to say that one look at the exposed gearshift was enough to sell me. One look at the pedal box, in all its magnificent aluminum glory was enough to sell me. One look at the frameless windshield of the convertible was enough to sell me. There are just so many items on this one car that by themselves would make me buy it. It has everything, all in one gorgeous package, and the quality of the materials are in a class by itself.
The dashboard alone is a thing of beauty, with a red fighter-jet toggle switch for the engine, and handcrafted aluminum switches. In fact, everything inside the car is aluminum, glass, or leather. It costs a reasonable 200,000 dollars, so I would not be taking advantage of the person making the gift. For that money, I could have a Lamborghini Gallardo, and be just another boring sheep, or I could get a car that is as different and rare as I am (or think I am).
Did I make the right choice? You tell me, since I am now asking the same question of you. “I will give you one car, free of charge, as long as its value is less than one million dollars, and you can’t sell it.” Which one would you choose? Please remember that this is hypothetical, and I am not about to buy anyone a real car. Seriously, make a comment here, or on my Facebook page, and tell me what you would choose. I will write another post with the results.
Article courtesy of Chris Raymond
Photos courtesy of Spyker Cars, Bugatti, s4.images.drive.ru, netcarshow.com, and Google Images
One of the most important rules in selling any car is to include great photos. In fact, the better the photo, the more money you will get when it’s time for the cash to change hands.
Recently, on a trip through eBay Motors, I found these gems. The cars are nice, but not very rare…but the pictures are fantastic.
This is how to sell a car…though I am pretty sure the model is not included. One has to assume these photos are professional, since the feature pic (and probably the model) are obviously “enhanced.”
The car, if you noticed it, is a 1962 Lincoln Continental, and it recently went through a very expensive restoration. Someone spent over 30 grand to get her into this shape.
Everything about the car seems perfect, including the blood red leather interior and contrasting black paint. It is a fantastic example…except that I have seen it all before. Why does no one paint these cars a nice silver or something. Every Lincoln Continental convertible does not need to be a replica of the car from “Entourage.” Anyways, I would buy this car just because of the photos…the model is breathtaking. Seriously, I want this on my bedroom wall.
Next up we have a beautiful 1969 Maserati Ghibli Spyder. It’s not a real Spyder…it’s just a Coupe with the roof cut off.
Basically, a man from Delaware took a hacksaw to the car, and then charged the owner 60 grand for the privilege. Nothing else is interesting about this car…except for the photos.
Finally we have two random shots of two random cars. The first is a Montana class battleship…sorry, it’s really a 1976 Cadillac Coupe DeVille, though the details of the car have been removed from eBay.
The other is a 1961 Renault Jolly, celebrity owned. Well, actually the celebrity is the founder of Armor All…which is as much a celebrity as Kim Kardashian. The car, usually made by Fiat, is slightly rare being made by Renault. Other than that, it has wicker chairs and no doors. Useless.
I once tried to describe a local car show as a place where everyone is a friend, where car people gather to share their latest projects, and where history and beauty is literally “at your fingertips.” My ramblings describe a warm summer evening where children play, dogs roam, families walk hand in hand, and the elderly teach wide-eyed children about advancements in automotive history. It’s a nice tale, but it is not always true.
One show I went to recently was held at a sports bar in Middleboro, MA. My friend Bill and I went to check out what we thought would be 50-100 cars. We fired up the old Jag, which we had spent the day working on, and started our drive south. Immediately, I noticed was that the old girl was not much fun to drive anymore. In spite of all the work, her steering was loose, many of her horses have long since galloped away, and it seemed with every bump another precious part of her would fly off. In spite of this, we soldiered on.
This particular show had recently moved from an easily accessible spot close to my house, to a dirt parking lot hours into the backwoods of Middleboro. There was nothing around, and it seemed a very strange place to have a sports bar, until we saw the clientele. The place attracts very loud groups of bikers, which explained why there were no homes close by, and presumably no one to call the police.
The front lot was reserved for what amounts to the local biker gang. All sorts of dangerous looking people in leather, boots and chains hung around the bikes. It looked like something between Altamont and Sturgis, and every few minutes the sound of a un-muffled chopper would blast the air, breaking the din from the 1980’s Van Halen music that played constantly.
There were cars there. Some of them were interesting, as you can see from some of the photos. My favorite was a Shelby Cobra replica by Factory Five Racing. It is one of the best examples of this very popular replica, with stunning orange paint and great chrome rims. Chevrolet was well represented with a large selection of Belair models from 1955, 56, and 1957. The latter was an amazing black convertible, and one of the best 57 Chevy’s I’ve ever seen.
Despite the environment, the show was interesting. There were no children playing, or families holding hands, but there was a nice selection of muscle cars and classics to make it worthy of an article. I learned a lot from the day…my Jag still needs work, and some bikers can be very scary.
“I’d rather live my life accepting that I’m not perfect, than spending my whole life pretending to be.”
By now, I am sure everyone in the car world has heard that James Garner, star of television’s Maverick and The Rockford Files has died at age 86. Garner was also well known for his movie roles, starring in iconic films like Grand Prix, Support Your Local Gunfighter, The Americanization of Emily and The Great Escape. His film work provided some of the best glimpses into the real world of racing, and his documentary, The Racing Scene was an gritty look into his ownership and management of a professional racing team.
His movie, Grand Prix was filmed in something called Cinerama, where, when shown in theatres, the film used three projectors simultaneously projecting onto three screens that were curved to take up your peripheral vision. The effect was so real, it caused motion sickness for some viewers during the racing scenes.
But Garner was so much more than just a good actor. Garner was a real American, joining the Merchant Marines, National Guard, and then the regular Army, where he was awarded the Purple Heart twice for his wounds received in combat in Korea. Garner also helped to organize Martin Luther King’s March on Washington civil rights demonstration, four years before he went to Vietnam. He was also a personal friend and student of Bruce Lee, mastering “jeet kune do,” and once owned a vineyard producing a Chardonnay called “Chateau Jimbeax.”
Garner was also a true gear head. In 1966, when he starred in the movie Grand Prix, he was the only actor in the cast that could actually drive. He performed all of his own driving and stunts, something that he would continue to do in all his television appearances. His love of driving and cars made it natural for him to get involved in racing. Garner became an owner of the American International Racers (AIR) team, which competed in Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring endurance racing events. His racing teams for those events included two Lola T70, Mark 3 versions with a 5000 cc Traco Chevrolet engine.
Unfortunately, being a movie and television star left him with certain insurance restrictions, and he was not allowed to race himself. However, Garner found a loophole and moved on to drive in off road events like the Baja 500, located in Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. Garner raced a series of AMC SC/Ramblers and trucks in the events, as well as a specially customized Oldsmobile 442.
His love of racing also made him a regular spectator at events around the world, especially Indianapolis, where drove the pace car for the Indy 500 three times. Garner also owned his own Chevrolet dealership, giving him access to the latest Corvettes, a favorite of his, as well as his longtime love of GMC vehicles. Garner also was the pitchman for several car companies, such as AMC and Mazda.
In every interview, Garner always admitted to a love of cars. He learned to drive at the age of 10, and his favorite game early on was called “Ditch ‘Em” where he and his friends would line up six to eight cars, and the first guy to take off would try to lose the rest. He was known in his small Oklahoma town for getting into trouble with cars, and even admits to “lifting” gas and cars for high speed joy rides.
Garner bought his first car, a 1952 Dodge coupe with money he gained from mustering out of the Army, plus some cash he had won playing poker. Later in life, his early success in television still left him cash strapped, and it was a while before he bought his first “reward” car, a Pontiac Firebird. During his time on the series Maverick, he was paid the contract rate of a few hundred dollars per week. One night he and his wife attended the premier of West Side Story and he was so ashamed of his own car, he borrowed Natalie Wood’s Cadillac.
Garners favorite car was a 1966 Mini Cooper S, customized by Radford. Both he and Steve McQueen brought Minis home from the shooting of TheGreat Escape. He and McQueen were neighbors in Hollywood and they used to race them up and down their street. It was the only car he said he regretted selling. One of his other favorite cars was the Pontiac Firebird. He owned several of varying years, all similar to his character Jim Rockford’s gold Pontiac Firebird Esprit. It was a car that became almost as much of a celebrity as Garner had.
Garners legacy includes his television and film work, his contributions to various groups and charities, as well as his dedication and commitment as a soldier. He also leaves a lengthy list of achievements and contributions to racing history. For me, he will forever be remembered for his trick, dubbed the Rockford. The move, which is essentially a J-turn, was performed so many times on his series The Rockford Files, it became synonymous with the show.
Article Courtesy of Chris Raymond
Photos Courtesy of autoblog.com, latimes.com, Google images, Wikipedia, vette.com
“How Nice – to feel nothing, and still get full credit for being alive.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five
Lincoln and Mercury reminded me of two aging silent screen stars living together in squalor, each in a futile attempt to care for the other. Lincoln, in a near vegetative state since 1990, survived on memories, while Mercury survived solely on the charity of others. Together they lived a life of worsening health and dwindling finances, until Mercury finally passed quietly in 2011. Now, the dilapidated house they once lived in is about to collapse, despite the occasional lick of paint.
Today, the Lincoln that remains is but a memory of better times. Recent attempts at resuscitation have all failed, and the brand now claims their lowest production figures since 1946. To put that in perspective, production of the MKT, Navigator and MKS models for the past six months equals about three minutes of Toyota Camry production. The Lincoln of today is a nothing more than a Ford Fusion customizer and a small boutique carmaker.
Recently, Ford announced another revival of the brand, as well as a change in management. The “new” Lincoln Motor Company is trumpeted through wispy, sometimes confusing ads showing great Lincolns of the past. The ads pulsate with cool jazz beats and have Gatsby-like sayings about how to build luxury cars. However, every one ends in the same disappointing way; a beauty shot of the amorphous and slightly androgynous MKZ.
Lincoln offers six models at present, from the newest SUV Crossover, the MKC to the hulking dinosaur, Navigator. Only the MKC is relevant in today’s world, a luxury crossover with styling reminiscent of the new Bentley SUV. For the Navigator, the days of the large SUV have passed and any effort to refresh the fossil will prove futile. The MKT was intended to replace the Town Car, but looked more like a panel van than a luxury sedan. Without a proper replacement, the MKT flopped, and Lincoln lost its professional vehicle market.
The remaining cars, the MKS and MKX are just failures in their class. Ugly, boring and lacking any spirit, they are blanks shot in desperation at a well armed attacker. Though the MKZ shows promise in an attempt to hold down the tidal wave of doom that lurks in Lincoln’s future, the entire lineup is depressing, and the new Mr. Pringles grille isn’t helping the situation. The lineup is so bad that the smell of death overpowers the smell of the Bridge of Weir leather. Ironically, once a large producer of funeral hearses, Lincoln has no vehicle worthy of carrying its own corpse to the grave.
Is there hope? Ford has committed a billion dollars to revitalize the brand. They have changed management, hired a new Chief Stylist from Jaguar and Aston Martin, and officially convinced themselves that the Pringles mustache looks like eagles wings. There is always hope, and Lincoln is not a modern day Nash, Packard or even Mercury. All Lincoln needs to survive is a clear understanding of four simple truths.
Heritage – First, Lincoln has only three cars in their entire history that should be called on for inspiration. They are the Mark II, the Mark III and the 1961 Continental. Everything else was a mistake, unworthy, or just another hunk of metal in a vast wasteland. Designers need to use the styling cues from these three cars to build the future. The Mark II has an amazing roofline, stunning curves, a stylish and dignified interior and that wonderful spare tire hump that could inspire. The Continental is an icon, from the crisp slab side design, the immortal suicide doors, the bright full face grille to the way the trunk curves in above the bumper, it is the epitome of elegance. The Mark III, once the ultimate personal luxury car of the 1970’s has its Rolls-Royce styled grille, the sweeping lines of the wheel wells, the low-cut formal roofline, and that amazing interior for inspiration. These are the cars that can recreate the magic of Lincoln. They are icons of a golden age.
Focus – Lincoln needs to limit production to three models: one luxury sedan, one sports-luxury coupe and one luxury Crossover. Everything else in the current lineup should be discontinued. Marketing needs to follow the theme of elegance and style, and stop focusing on Jimmy Fallon, Twitter and Facebook. That one shot of the young woman peering around the side of the deep blue Continental C pillar is a perfect example of the look needed. Styles, materials, colors and even model names need to reflect an air of luxury and sophistication. Naming a car in pig-Latin and thinking that there will somehow be a attachment to a random set of letters is just ignorant. The cars need to be named Continental and Town Car, they are that iconic. People buy cars to be seen in, and cars they fall in love with. Limiting the number of models will focus the company on good design, and convince the public that Lincoln “means business.” It works for Jaguar and Land Rover.
Buzz – Lincoln needs a game changer, a head turner that will become the 21st Century Jaguar XKE. They do not need to create fashion, they need to create art. Beauty sells cars more than the latest stereo system, and beauty is sorely lacking these days. Lincoln needs to design a car that is so stunning, people can’t help but stare at it. The days of the fat, gussied up Ford Fusion need to end. How difficult is this task? Jaguar did it time and again; Ferrari and Lamborghini do it with every model, and a simple scan of the internet will tell you that there are thousands of hopeful car designers creating masterpieces every day.
Lincoln needs a luxury sports coupe on the lines of the Bentley Continental, but more remarkable. They need a car that is something between a Mercedes AMG Grand Turismo and a Maserati Alfieri. Lincoln also needs a return of the luxury sedan, a true road yacht and not some origami sports sedan like Cadillac. Lincolns of yesterday were driven by the Don Drapers of the world, and right now there is nothing truly luxurious about anything for sale under 150,000 dollars. Imagine how a redesigned Town Car would look against a sea of BMW’s and Audi’s at the local golf course. People want to replace their cheaply built Escalades with a true luxury car, and will always pay extra for elegance and style.
Faith – Lincoln needs to believe. Audi, Porsche, and Cadillac have all done it before. Ford is one of the best and brightest carmakers in the world now, and with its backing, a billion or so in cash, and the ability to cherry pick from the best technicians and designers in the industry; it is more than possible. Lincoln needs to commit, stay with it, and hire the right people. They need to take chances, rock the boat and perform like Steve Job’s Apple. Lincoln needs to create art, the customers will take care of the rest.
“Art produces ugly things which frequently become more beautiful with time. Fashion, on the other hand, produces beautiful things which always become ugly with time.” – Jean Cocteau
Great automobile design is truly subjective. Its success can depend on everything from the designers tastes and ingenuity, the correct perception of the market, to even the financial and corporate backing of the automakers. The “perfect storm” of events needed to ensure a great car is so subjective that even with the best environment, things can go terribly wrong.
This week I wanted to feature some of the work of Chrysler during the 1950’s and 1960’s. Specifically, I wanted to feature the designs of Virgil Exner Sr., Advanced Styling Studio Chief at Chrysler. Mr. Exner is famous for many things, including his “Forward Look” designs of 1955-1957, his classic 1970’s Stutz Blackhawk, and his concepts for Bugatti, Duesenberg and Mercer. His amazing career was the subject of a book I recently viewed, modestly titled “Virgil Exner: Visioneer” by Peter Grist. Mr. Exner is not well known today, but his legendary designs and industry changing concepts ensure him a hallowed place in automotive design history.
Time is an important requirement for creating a good design, and it takes most manufacturers 2-4 years to go from concept to production. There are exceptions, as in the case of the Volkswagen Beetle, which took 15 years. (It should be noted that the Beetle was designed by Jewish engineer/car designer Josef Ganz, and not penned by Hitler or Porsche as publicized). On the other hand, the Ferrari Daytona took only 7 days to design. Time, or the lack of it, is what created Virgil Exner’s biggest design failure, tarnished his legacy, and eventually contributed to his downfall at Chrysler.
Much of the designs Virgil Exner did in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s were for large cars. For 1962, the designs for the new models were only months away from production when an event happened that would tarnish Exner’s career forever. During a garden party, then President of Chrysler, William Newberg thought he overheard a GM executive talking about downsizing their upcoming models. In actuality, the executive, Bob Cole was speaking about the new Chevy II and not the entire model lineup. This mistake cost Chrysler dearly, and eventually led to the downfall of Virgil Exner. Newberg immediately ordered Exner to rework the entire Chrysler lineup. Gone were the big designs, and team worked non-stop to squeeze the designs onto a smaller frame.
The result was some of the most abominable designs ever created by Detroit. The 1962 Dodge Dart/Valiant was over styled, poorly proportioned and universally panned by the press and public. Through it all, Exner warned that the result of this downsizing would be atrocious, and end in a colossal failure. Newberg assured him that he would not be held responsible, and the process slogged on. To add fuel to the fire, the engineers and bean counters imposed limitations due to cost cutting that doomed the effort. The original design for curved glass was eliminated, as was wraparound bumpers and new rooflines. They even went so far as to mandate the amount of chrome on the car. All this happened in an environment of turmoil. Executives, including the Chairman were embroiled in a payola scandal that cost more than a few their jobs.
In the end, the cars Exner had dubbed “plucked chickens” were so poorly received that when they were finally unveiled to the dealers, over 20 of them simply walked out. At year’s end the sales of Dodge cars were down 25% and despite assurances from management, Exner was relieved of his position as Design Chief and given a small room to ride out his remaining contract. Despite his success with the “Forward Look” designs, and his amazing concepts, the designs of the 1962 Dodge would haunt his legacy forever.
The 1962 Dodge cars were some of the most “aesthetically challenged” vehicles ever to be produced. The cars were so hideous that they are still loathed to this day by most critics, and will probably never enjoy the true following they deserve. At the time, design critics thought they looked “plain ugly” and had a front end “as if someone had taped two flashlights to the fenders.” Sales were terrible, and it took Chrysler almost 5 years to regain the ground lost. Time is lessening the blow, and the designs have softened over the years. The cars are still as “fugly” as a wart, they do appear more “European” in the right light and at the right angle. In hindsight, the cars have become a curious oddity from the golden age of the car styling.
Of course, Mr. Exner’s designs were always a little out there. His predilection for highlighting the functions of the car, rather than hiding them led to one outrageous move after another. One only needs to look at the 1961 Chrysler Crown Imperial’s free-standing headlights to see his unique taste in car design. Exner’s design cues include the reverse tailfin, the ingrown toenail lights, massive wings, sweeping chrome side panels, severely scalloped fender wells, gun sight taillights, concave grilles, as well as off centered and asymmetric wind splits, driver only dashboards, and his signature, the fake spare tire impression on the decklid. Separately, these items read like a list of “don’ts” for a car stylist, but in the hands of Exner, they were unique, thought provoking, sometimes controversial and always beautiful.
Throughout his career, Virgil Exner was an innovator, a visionary and to some, a victim of corporate stupidity. He will forever be remembered as the man who saved Chrysler, only to almost kill it. Though not on the same level as Pininfarina, Gandini, Sayer, or Giugiaro, his designs are timeless, beautiful and still relevant today. Even his most criticized work has grown to be more alluring than ever before, and with time I believe they will continue to soften. The cars featured here represent the best concept and production cars of a true master.
“Macie recently discovered she has a new magical power, the ability to create infinite food. On car rides, Macie has turned into a vomit-making perpetual motion machine. – Chris Raymond
This is a photo of Macie, my Pitbull-American Bulldog mix. Macie is a spoiled princess when it comes to…well, everything, and she has about had it when it comes to her present mode of transportation. I drive a Mazda Miata, which is about the same size as Macie. Macie takes up the entire passenger seat as well as half the center console, with enough left over to hang onto the carpets. She has destroyed the car by covering every inch of the interior in drool, throwing up on the carpets and ripping the leather seats at the seams. Though she spends half her time trying to jump out the window and the other half staring at me disapprovingly when I drive too fast, she has finally decided enough is enough. She wants something bigger.
Considering the little Miata is not a great car for the winter, I thought it was time to start looking around for a replacement. I need a vehicle that is AWD, good in the snow, comfortable for long highway trips, is reasonably reliable and gets acceptable gas mileage for a big car. I also need it to have some feel of luxury as well as a uniqueness that makes it different from the standard Chevy or Hyundai. It also needs to be cheap enough that I don’t care what either winter or Macie will do to it.
Audi A4-A6 Quattro Wagon
There is something about an Audi that looks more menacing than a BMW or Mercedes. You get the feeling that Audi drivers are friends with people who could break your legs. I prefer the wagons over the sedans because I need to overcompensate for years of having a Miata trunk. Combine the quality of an Audi with its famous Quattro drivetrain and you end up with an excellent contender for a winter car. The best thing about this is that you can find them cheap and in very good condition.
Audi Allroad Wagon
Basically this is a meaner looking A4 with cooler plastic cladding and a turbo. Early versions were based on the A6 and feature low range gearing and height adjustable suspensions. The Allroad is piled high with leather and wood trim, typical of an Audi. It has 7.1 inches of ground clearance which should be good enough for my eternally unplowed street. There is even a Biturbo version for those enjoy twice the turbo lag.
This Giugiaro designed spaceship is probably the coolest option for a winter beater I can think of. Not only is it AWD, but it is a Subaru…the ultimate winter mountain goat. Plus, those funky side-windows will make you feel like a fighter pilot. The SVX is no Land Rover, but it would look amazing in the driveway.
This is Mini Me to the Navigator. From the outside, it is a typical ugly Detroit SUV. The interior is why this car made the list. It looks a little like a Bentley Continental in there, in spite of the cheap quality silver plastic. Considering I spend most of my time “inside” the car, I think this is a serious contender. I like the leather, the dual cowl design of the dash, and even can tolerate all those little silver bits and pieces. It even comes with a rear climate-control system, perfect for dealing with Macie’s gas issues.
I have always said “If you’re going to be a bear, be a Grizzly!” This monster is about as Grizzly as you can get in an SUV. Not only is this the longest SUV ever made, it is the widest, the tallest, has the longest wheelbase, the widest front track, widest rear track, and is the heaviest SUV ever produced. This is enormous. Macie and all her friends will have ample room to run and frolic in this behemoth. Drawbacks include the fact that it will be impossible for the heater to keep that much space warm, parking it in front of the house will block out the sun, and I will require a second job to pay for gas.
Mercedes Benz E320 4Matic Estate
I never considered a Mercedes Benz because I thought they would be out of my price range. I was surprised to learn that a “gently” used example could be had for under 6 grand. For me, there is something special about a Mercedes wagon that cannot be matched by the sedan. It says “I may have money, but I still work.” I like the idea of all that wood trim and leather, combined with Mercedes quality and standards. Plus, newer models include all the gadgets and gizmos you would expect of a luxury car, like heated seats, heated steering wheel, and a great 4MATIC AWD system.
Range Rover Country LWB
I have always wanted a Series I Range Rover. There is something about this car that makes everyone who drives it look like Prince Charles. Maybe it is the height, or the Connolly leather seats and wood trim, but this car has a presence not found in anything but a British luxury car. Series II doesn’t cut it for me, and Series III is still too expensive for a winter beater. Finding a great example will cost tens of thousands, but a decent local one can be had for cheap money. Yes, it is as reliable as my old Jaguar XJS, and owning one will probably lead to suicide…but it still seems worth it to me.
Land Rover Discovery
If I cannot find an acceptable Range Rover, then this is the perfect alternative. I like the later models with the modern headlight configuration, and really like the upright stance and small roof windows. Land Rovers are mountain goats, and this should handle the snow quite well. Inside there is enough leather and wood to make the car seem luxurious, and enough space for Macie to stretch out. Again, I hear the quality is pretty poor on some models, but at least it is better than the Freelander. Word is that they can last forever with proper care, but that maintenance is constant and expensive.
Subaru Impreza WRX
I have secretly loved these cars for a long time, but never admitted it because most are driven by idiot kids and wanna-be racers. It is possible to find a decent WRX with high miles, and I would certainly prefer the round headlight model sedan over the wagon. This is a true rally car for the road, and the thought of bombing through a winter storm in this baby is pretty exciting. I am sure I would get bored by the plastic Japanese interior, but never of the fun.
Volvo XC Cross Country Wagon
This is another car I would not usually consider, but there is something about plastic cladding that makes this car appear more durable. The XC is AWD and comes with an unusual 5 cylinder 2.7L engine. Quality has to be good, since you can rarely find one with less than 150,000 miles. The interior is average, and the plastic does appear a little cheap, but the huge leather seats are a big plus. I especially like the seat heaters for winter, and the added in-dash navigation system. This one is not on the top of the list, but at least it is a contender.
Article Courtesy of Chris Raymond
Photos Courtesy of nytimes.com, cardomain.com, netcarshow.com, mcsmk8.com, ebay.com, trialx.com and Google images
Recently I was lucky enough to receive an email from a fellow auto journalist named Claus Muller. Claus is a collector, racer and Managing Director of the Munich Café Racers. He wanted to inform me of an article that he had written about a recent trip to India. What he didn’t mention was that the trip was for him to be a guest of his Highness Arvind Singh Mewar, Maharana of Udaipur, India. The trip, which started as a discussion at the Pebble Beach Concourse was to include a tour of the Marahana’s home, the City Palace of Udaipur during the Holika Dahan festival and a tour of a Royal Vintage and Classic Car Collection.
This was not your average article about an average adventure. Being the guest of the Maharana was very special, and being there during the time of the Holi festival was even better. Holika Dahan is the Indian festival of colors called Holi. It is a time of sacred fires, royal processions, band and parades. It is also the time when festival participants cover everyone in brightly colored powder to celebrate the arrival of spring. In short, it is the perfect time to visit India.
The adventure includes a tour of some amazing buildings and vehicles, including Rolls Royce, Jaguar, Packard, Cadillac, Daimler, and a host of great cars. One especially beautiful example is a Rolls Royce (possibly a Phantom II) with a polished aluminum body from the Royal Car Collection of Maharaja Gaj Singh II of Marwar. I recommend clicking the links for the full article…it is an amazing story of an even more amazing adventure.
Claus Muller also recently visited Iran to witness a vintage car rally that takes place from Tehran to the Caspian Sea. The link below is to the full article, and I seriously recommend checking it out. Trips to the Middle East are rare these days, and getting a real glimpse into modern day Iran during the June election is truly incredible. His visit to the Historical Car Museum of Iran includes vehicles from the last Shah of Iran. The list of vehicles includes some astounding examples from Rolls Royce, Pierce Arrow, Bizzarrini, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Mercedes and a very special Chrysler Ghia. It is a “must read” and convinces me to add Iran to my list of places I need to visit.
My understanding is that more trips are planned, including Costa Rica, South Africa, Moscow and Australia. He has promised to keep me updated. Finally, I would like to thank Mr. Muller for allowing me to write about his adventure, and for sending me the links and photos. As I hear more from him, I will keep updating you on his adventures.
Today, rescuers were running toward the wounded on Boylston Street in acts of true heroism — running toward the sound of the screams. In the end, the terrorists will fail because Bostonians did not turn from their fellow men — they turned toward them. And that is the real music of mankind. – Howard Fineman
I will be on vacation until the first week of May.
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