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.
Yesterday, I made a decision that I had to start killing all the other drivers in Massachusetts. If I could not kill them, at least I had to start torturing them. I experienced what could be described as a mental breakdown (epiphany for those in California) when this woman in a Hyundai refused to move from the left lane of the highway, and insisted that I travel 70mph. I broke. I could not pass her, and she would not move. It was a stalemate, and one I am not proud of. It ended when I finally put my car in neutral and let it glide to a halt in the high-speed lane. The only reason I was able to go on, was the joy I felt from pissing off the drivers behind me.
I understand that drivers in Boston (and surrounding towns) are mentally deficient. I know that most are inhumanly cruel, psychotic, and are completely unable to communicate except by using their middle finger, or the horn. I know Boston drivers are not just bad, they are inconceivably, ludicrously horrendous. I have lived in Massachusetts for most of my life, and I also know it is not something that is taught. It is a disease that is imbedded in our DNA, a genetic disorder like Down’s Syndrome or Schizophrenia.
Driving in Massachusetts is a dance with death, where cars careen across the highway at top speed, and where drivers are flailing out of windows, screaming obscenities. Every time I get behind a wheel in Boston, I start remembering that I don’t have a will, and that I wanted to see Paris before I died. One single trip to a friend’s house can force you to witness hundreds of driving infractions. When you finally arrive, you have this insatiable need to hurt someone.
People in this state drive like moles, never looking up, never able to see anything. They think that no matter what they do, they have a god given right to do it. What is worse is that they are sure they have the skill to pull off any stunt, and laugh off every obstruction in front of them. Brakes are not required here, since it’s better to swerve than waste a good brake pad. In fact, the proper way to stop someone for tailgating is to quickly downshift, so they aren’t warned by your brake lights. It is slalom driving at its best, and most of your time is spent weaving between three-abreast parking and insane pedestrians who wrongly feel they have the right to walk.
In Massachusetts, it is our duty to create as much mayhem as possible for the other drivers. Each driver is required to pull out in traffic to block oncoming cars, banned from ever using turn signals (extra points are awarded if you have broken tail lights), and drive at maniacal speeds on residential roadways. If you see a parking space, you park in the street next to it, and make sure the available parking spot is unusable to anyone else. If you are from out of state, beware. It is perfectly legal for us to race by you on the inside lane, get in front, and then slam on the brakes. In Massachusetts, there is only one rule: Never let the other guy know you see him.
Streets in Boston were once cow trails that were paved over. In Beacon Hill, the streets are the width of a very thin cow, and all are one way. If you miss a turn, you may have to drive to New Hampshire to turn around. However, the alleyways are great for high-speed spirited driving. If you open a map of Boston, you will realize the streets are actual size. It is a small city, full of cars and bicycles intent on killing you.
I understand the “rules” to Boston driving well, but cannot understand why other people refuse to cooperate. Everyone knows the left lane is for 90mph or higher. Yellow lights mean that you should speed up and brace for the inevitable impact that will occur. Rotaries (we invented them) are to be entered at top speed with your eyes closed. Once inside, it is your job to prevent anyone else from entering, while trying to slam everything in the car up against the right door panel.
Everything that is yellow in our state is just a suggestion. Yield signs, yellow curbs, and yellow centerlines are just guidelines, and not meant to be followed. When pulling up to a tollbooth, I know to always aim for one, and then swerve to another three lanes over at the last minute. It is expected here, and it tells the drivers behind you that you mean business. Even old people, who normally drive slowly, are insane. If they are not crashing through the local Dunkin Donuts, they are careening through busy intersections at top speed.
Don’t get me wrong, I love this state, and consider it my home. I love the fact that we drive 80mph through the worst snowstorms without concern. I love that we accept the fact that we will be broadsided as soon as we leave our driveway. I love the slalom driving in Boston, or the sight of an old Honda riding on three temporary spare tires. It is just that I cannot drive slowly, especially when someone is in front of me. Highways are a competition, and I want to win. In Boston, we take our driving as seriously as we take our sports.
Article courtesy of Chris Raymond
Photos courtesy of Google Images, thisisbroken.com, and Ichizen.com
Obituaries seem to be the latest fad in the auto industry. With the loss of Saturn and Hummer, the nation wept over the thought of never again buying a battle-ready SUV or being freaked out by a Stepford Wives car salesman with the free cookies.
Pontiac was a different story, since the car brand has been around since 1926 and was responsible for some of the most beautiful and memorable cars in America. Killing Pontiac would have been one thing, but let’s face it, GM abused the brand long before it died. There should be jail time for some of the cars that came out of Pontiac, and there should have been counseling offered to the American people once they were gone. Once upon a time, Pontiac was the “excitement” brand, turning out cars like the Firebird, Trans AM, Grand Prix and of course, the GTO. How this company became the same one that produced the Aztek, and the plastic nightmares of the 1990’s is something I think a grand jury should look into. Pontiac was a way of life for the people who were loyal, for those who built it, and for those that sold the cars. It was wrong to allow it to fail in the way it did. Saturn and Hummer are lightweights… Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Plymouth were icons.
They have all gone the way of Plymouth, up to auto heaven, and now all we have are the memories and rust stains on the driveway. But they won’t be up there alone for very long, because a lot more brands will soon need the services of a Jack Kevorkian.
First up will be Maybach, which probably won’t be missed by anyone but a few lame rappers. It was nice to see them rise again and shake off that whole Third Reich image, but let face it: here in the US we really don’t need a Landaulet State Limousine, because we have no Fuhrer (hear that Glenn Beck…no Fuhrer!)
Next may be Mitsubishi, but only because they have been in decline longer than Elizabeth Taylor and nothing they create is worthwhile except the EVO. Buyers of Mitsubishi still wear parachute pants and have padded shoulders, but are now too fat to fit in the cars anymore. Google “Mitsubishi Jokes” and you get a gallery of its cars. They are a huge company, but if they don’t start to sell something soon, I am pretty sure Japan will pull the plug.
Buick may be on the list, despite what GM says. Buick has declined more that 80% since 2003, and now that everyone hates Tiger Woods, no one will buy this lame excuse for a car. GM should have kept Pontiac or Oldsmobile, and dumped Buick. Olds was a poor person’s Cadillac, and Buick was a poor person’s Old. Buick has no personality, and the attempts at placing them against BMW and Audi are a complete joke. I know old people need transportation, but I thought that was why God made the Hoverround.
Finally, when I originally wrote this article in April for Car Design Review, I predicted that Ford would dump Mercury. I don’t want to pat myself on the back (that’s why Elsa is here), but I was right. Mercury is gone, and I could not be happier. Mercury was founded by Edsel Ford, which should have given the Board of Directors a hint of the future. They have been in decline since the 1970’s, have not made a decent car since the 1950’s, and are basically the automotive equivalent of Rosemary Kennedy…lobotomized. Mercury has been in a coma for so long, I think Ford forgot about them. They are memorable for just a small handful of cars, including the Mercury Monterey, Park Lane, and Turnpike Cruiser, the 1960’s Cougar, and the one time sale of the great de Thomaso Pantera. Everything else they did was offensive, like the Mercury Topaz, Sable, and every other version of the Cougar. Oh yeah, lets not forget that whole sitcom period, where they had the gay cousin (Merkur) come join the family. Mercury was Terri Schiavo, and it took too long to pull the plug.
If you are not bawling your eyes out yet, let’s continue…If you can’t kill the whole brand, try shooting up models (not the playboy type). Gone soon will be the Dodge Viper, a car that deserves to be continued at least in kit form, it was so good. Honda is dumping the SC2000, a roadster that was better than any BMW or Miata. Mazda is killing the RX8, with its rotary engine and those cool hideaway doors. Want more? Toyota claims it will keep its FJ Cruiser, but I think it will be gone soon enough. The Ford Explorer Sport Trac will be either gone, or rebadged into obscurity, and disappearing soon will be the Audi S8 and Dodge Caliber SRT/4.
The auto industry is performing more hits than a coke crazed mafia assassin, and it does not care about the people left behind. Detroit itself looks like Dresden after the war, and things are getting out of hand. So, stock up on Kleenex, because I am sure there will be a lot more death coming our way.
Article courtesy of cardesignreview.com and Chris Raymond
Photos courtesy of automotivetraveler.com, Google Images, Chrysler, and GM
With all the news about green technology and alternative fuel vehicles, I decided to do some research into some of the more bizarre concepts that have been hailed as “Miracle Cars”
The Water Car – The first patents for the water car appeared in the early 70’s. By the 1990’s, inventor Stan Meyer made news with his water-powered dune buggy and then his untimely death. Other than that, there have been a lot of unsubstantiated claims and few results. The technology is rather simple: Water molecules are separated into oxygen and hydrogen though electrolysis, and the hydrogen is burned directly in the engine. Some versions require distilled water and baking soda and other versions claim they can even burn sea water. Science says that the process is more elaborate than claimed by water car supporters and that the energy required is more than the energy created.
Verdict: Until I see a working version close up I’ll put this down as an urban legend.
The Air Car – There are many different prototypes for the Air Car, but the most promising is being developed by French company Motor Development International SA (MDI) in conjunction with Tata Motors. The concept: air is compressed in a tank and injected into the engine to move the pistons. A generator refills the air tank. That’s about it. There are many obvious advantages but also some serious disadvantages, including safety and loss of compression and energy through system cooling.
Verdict: Tata Motors put $30 million dollars into the company so I think this is absolutely true. However, I don’t see this as much more than a “boutique alternative” to gasoline power.
The Chocolate Car – Believe it or not there is a group of students from the University of Warwick in Britain that are building a Formula Three car that runs on 30% biodiesel derived from chocolate waste. According to the Daily Green.com, the steering wheel is partly made from carrots, and other parts are made from potato starch and flax fiber.
Verdict: It might work, but will chocolate fuel make the car fat?
The Poop Car – When I say this car is crap, I only mean the fuel. The poop car will use a process called “pyrolysis” to convert used diapers into a mix of gas, oil, and char. A company called AMEC from Canada is planning on converting 180 million dirty diapers into 11 million liters of diesel. Considering diapers can take up to 100 years to decompose, it’s a better option than dumping them in a landfill.
Verdict: If nothing else, having a car powered by poop will discourage anyone from siphoning your fuel.
Everything Else – Here are some of the weird things you can use to create biodiesel: sugar cane waste, road side grasses, turkey guts, coffee grinds, human fat from liposuctions, sawdust, nuts, Styrofoam cups, dead pets, and even algae. Companies and universities around the world are developing new ways to create Biodiesel on a small scale. The question is if these technologies can be ramped up on a large scale, remain viable and become profitable.
Back in October, I purchased a new MX-5 Miata from a Mazda dealership in Springfield, MA. I paid for the car, bought some nice options like an iPod connection, and then gave them a few days to prep it for delivery. I returned later to find the options were not installed, and someone had stolen my floor mats. Finally, after some time everything looked in order and drove home, but upon arrival noticed some problems with the car. First, they installed the iPod connection, but in the process disconnected the heater and A/C controls. Second, the mats were actually used, and worn through at the driver’s foot area. I made a few angry calls, fixed the issues myself and decided never to shop there again.
After some thought, I realized that the problem is the same everywhere and with every dealership. I know that the next time I shop for a car I will probably “settle” for something on the lot, rather than get the car exactly as I wanted. I will probably pay too much for it because the salesman will either wear me down, or confuse me so I haven’t a clue. No matter where I go, it will all be the same; even the prestige brands want the most money from you before kicking you out the door. Customer service isn’t the key here, because Saturn had that whole experience planned with the “Stepford Wives” car salesmen, the free mind numbing cookies and the strange photo session of dazed buyers with new cars on the wall. Saturn is out of business now and most of those customer service experts are unemployed.
No, the problem is that the whole business model of expensive retail outlets is a throwback to the 1950’s. Nowadays, major brands understand that a presence on the web is more important than a storefront. The alternative to the dealership model is a cleaner experience from the start, with cars being sold online through websites and the automakers displaying models at direct retail stores like BJ’s Wholesale and Costco. Automakers need to create a set pricing structure for each car, so that I know what it will cost with the options I want in Boston or in Seattle. Only a few key people are needed at a store to prep the car, arrange test drives and answer questions. Of course there are certain details that would have to be worked out, but the concept is very sound. In fact, China’s Geely is looking into the possibility very seriously and Ford is testing flat rate pricing in the southern US. Internet sites are also prospering and Car Max was the only automotive group that actually grew during the recent economic downturn. There is a solution here and all the automakers have to do is encourage change and reward innovation.
Anyone who has ever repeated the line “I’m just looking today” or tried to escape from the clutches of a car salesman knows that there has to be a better way. Thanks possibly to China, that day may be here soon.
Photos Courtesy of Google Images, at.detroit.net – Cartoon courtesy of farside
As part of some research into an article on the worst cars ever made, I decided to check out similar lists on the internet. Most of them were just plain silly, like Time Magazine’s “Worst Cars of All Time” which included the Plymouth Prowler and Chevy SSR solely because they lacked a little horsepower, and the magnificent BMW 7-Series because of its complicated iDrive and its Jennifer Lopez butt.
Some lists were just mean, like MSN’s “10 Worst Cars Ever” which included the lowly Chevy Vega not once, but twice…out of ten cars. Business Week was also nasty to the little Vega, listing it along with the cleanly styled Chevrolet Corvair as one of the “10 Ugliest Cars of All Time”. Only CNN Money was fair by choosing to name their article “Tagged: 10 Cars with Bad Reputations”, in other words “10 Rumors we Heard About Cars”. Surprisingly, no list that I found included cars from Volkswagen or even Lancia, makers of the 412 and Beta. So, rather than contribute to the abuse, I decided instead to defend the Chevrolet Vega.
The Vega was a small subcompact made by GM from 1971 to 1977. The car was rear wheel drive, equipped with an aluminum engine, very stylish and priced at $2,000 dollars. This would be a recipe for success for any other carmaker, but the Vega was doomed from the start by GM’s corporate politics and committees. Built during a time when Bill Mitchell was still VP of Design, the car was pretty from all angles, and early versions included Hatchback, Notchback, Kammback and Panel Van body styles. The Vega was introduced with several transmission options, standard front disk brakes, power steering, an electric fuel pump, a modular designed body to increase stiffness, side guard door beams and a double paneled roof. Over 1.9 million of the cars were produced, even spawning sister cars by Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Buick.
Problems with the car began early in its life. Rushed into production to beat Ford, who launched the Pinto the day after GM rolled out the Vega, meant that designers were required to learn new aluminum engine technology and place those engines into production all at the same time. Parts and design changes were scrapped to stay on schedule and the engine, which was once “the most extraordinary part of the car” according to Collectable Automobile, was sacrificed. Even the concept of the aluminum engine was dictated by cost, since eliminating liners for the old engine saved $8.00. Though this was the first time an OHC sleeveless, die cast aluminum block engine was put into production, the schedule still was the priority.
Every problem that occurred could be traced back to cost cutting made by management. The rust problems with the front fenders were because the design allowed for air pockets during the primer dip. This could have been addressed by a set of $2.00 plastic fender liners, but the committee said no. Even the steel used to make the car was thinned out to cut costs. The first prototype sent to the proving grounds broke in two after only eight miles on the Belgian parve and ribs needed to be added to the Kammback roofline, since the metal was too thin to carry the weight.
In spite of all the problems, the car was well received by the automotive press, and won major awards from almost every magazine, as well as Car of the Year. During its life special editions were made, including the famous Cosworth Vega Twin Cam, the Yenko Chevrolet Stinger II turbocharged Vega, and the Spirit of America Bicentennial edition. Surprisingly, the Cosworth Vega had decent sales figures, in spite of the fact it was only $900 dollars less than a Chevy Corvette.
Today, Vega’s are prized by the Hot Rod and racing culture and it’s still common to see one on the track, especially since a V8 engine fits nicely under the hood. In 30 years time, the people who bought the Vega still treat it with the respect it deserves; only the car critics still hate it.
April 17th is the birthday of the Ford Mustang. Introduced on this date in 1964, the Pony Car has a long and varied history. To some, the car is an icon. To many others, the car is a reminder of what corporate America can do with a good idea.
Originally, the car was designed as a two seat, mid engine sports car, and named the T-5. Sexy as that sounds, they decided to change the name, though there is some debate as to how the name Mustang won. On one hand, John Najjar, the Executive Stylist supposedly named the car after the P-52 Mustang fighter plane. On the other, Robert J. Eggert, a market research manager said the name came from a book on Mustang horses, given to him by his wife. Officially, Ford says it was named after the fighter plane, but the marketing department decided that the free-spirited American Mustang was a better image for the car. To reinforce the marketing images of owners that “bucked the herd” they even made the grille mascot run opposite of American race horses on the track.
When the car was introduced, the new Mustang immediately sold 22,000 units, which was pretty astounding. In the first year Ford sold 400,000 copies, and over a million by 18 months, making the Mustang a huge success. The design and development took only 18 months, but Ford gave up on the original 2 seat concept because of the trouble they had with the Thunderbird. The result was a coupe and later a 2+2 model that became automotive icons.
Then it all went to hell. Ford is a company heavy with committees, and for some reason they cannot keep their hands of a good design. Each year until 1971 the Mustang got heavier and heavier. Ford was lucky that the body style could take much of the abuse, and cars like the 1968 and 1969 models were still quite attractive. But like Anna Nicole Smith, you eventually started to lose the impression that the Mustang had once been a pinup, because like Anna, the Mustang had packed on 800 pounds. By 1971, she was just a fat and slow draft horse. The weight was obvious, and even the sexy fastback started to look like a boat.
By 1974, Ford was looking to make a big change with the Mustang. Lee Iacocca was President by then, and had ordered the Mustang to be brought closer to its original size and design. Rather than a clean sheet of paper, the committees gave the designers a sheet with a Ford Pinto already on it. They designed the car over that, using the recently purchased Ghia name for some added class. Overall the Mustang II is hated by most pony car fans. But, the car did bring up the slumping sales from 111, 015 to 385,993. Even today, if you look closely at the design, there is a lot of styling cues that hark back to the original. You have to squint really hard, but they are there. Basically, the little pony car was back, though it was still heavy, poorly built and underpowered.
It took less than a year for the public to get bored by the Mustang II, and sales faltered. Ford stuck with the Mustang II design until 1979, when it created the next generation, angular Fox bodied car. This change once again brought sales records to 369,936 units. The car was to be a front-wheeled drive V6 powered sister to the Mazda MX6, but Mustang fans complained, and Ford made it the standard V8 optioned RWD car.
Now at Generation four in 1994, the new Mustang was the first new design in 15 years. Styled by Patrick Schiavone, it incorporated styling cues from previous designs, and put 10 more years under the Mustangs belt. In 1999, the car was restyled a little to incorporate the “New Edge” styling theme, which brought crisper lines and sharper countours.
Finally, in 2005 we were given the S-197 Mustang, or the pretty one as most people know it. This car was designed by Sid Ramnarace, and echoes the Mustangs of old. The design concept is called Retro-Futurism, and is used on the Camaro as well as the Dodge Challenger. The committees at Ford updated this design in 2008 to include seats with soybean based material…in some lame effort to make it green. In 2010, the lines were made a little crisper, and the car was made to look a lot meaner. Overall the design is pretty, but it gives the impression of a plastic toy, similar to the Camaro.
The Mustang has come a long way in 48 years, and according to the auto blogs, the new retro look may be gone by 2015. Over the years, the committees at Ford have taken beautiful designs and ruined them, only to come up with pretty designs, and ruin those. The sales chart for the Mustang is almost a direct line heading down, with a few peaks with the new introductions. Had they left the design alone, maybe they would have sold more cars. In any case, the Ford Mustang is a classic and still looks pretty good for its age.
Article Courtesy of Chris Raymond
Photos Courtesy of netcarshow.com, cargurus.com, americanmuscle.com,
Buying a used car? Don’t make another move until you’ve read these handy tips from Chris on Cars contributor and noted used car buyer, Dave Saraiva. (disclaimer: implementation of these tips may result in ridicule, incarceration, and possibly death)
Be sure to tell the dealer that you absolutely must purchase something that day or your mother will not be able to get to her dialysis treatments. This will make him feel sorry for you and give you a huge discount on the car.
When searching craigslist for a car, remember that the more exclamation points a posting contains, the better the car is.
The best way to look like a savvy car buyer is to open the hood and ask if it’s a V6 or a V8. If he says ‘V8’ whistle and say ‘nice’. If he says V6, call him a faggot and punch him in the dick
If you see a dead body in the trunk, that’s a good sign that there’s ample trunk space.
No matter what the asking price is, always offer something lower. This is a clever negotiating tactic that will force the dealer to lower the price to what he planned on selling it for all along.
If the check engine light is on, be sure to have the dealer smash it so it turns off
If the dealer has the word “crazy” in front of his name, he is probably a veteran suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome and you should offer him double the asking price out of sympathy
Be creative in your negotiating tactics. For instance, tell the owner he can bang your sister if he agrees to throw in a free oil change.
Always act disappointed when you’re checking out a car, no matter how nice it is. For instance, if a car doesn’t have a hot tub in the back, shake your head and say ‘no hot tub’ then start crying
Many of the “great deals” you find on the internet turn out to be scams. In order to identify whether it’s a scam or not, send a check. If the car doesn’t come, it’s a scam
Most dealers will tell you their cars were driven by “little old ladies.” You can verify this by checking to see if the car smells like death.
A good way to reduce the asking price of a car is to sneak onto the lot at night and set it on fire
When dealing with private owners, always play dumb by trying to drive the car from the passenger seat
Most dealers will provide a minimum 30 day warrantee on all used cars. Be careful though. It does not cover damage from ramming your car into the side of your girlfriend’s house over and over while drunk. (take my word for it)
My friend at Just A Car Guy posted this great article that he found on another great site called Dean’s Garage. They describe some of the dumbest, strangest, and most tragic stories in the car world that I have ever read, and had to republish them here. UPDATE – I just found out that these are not true, and are just made up. Still, they are funny and worth a look.
On a side note, I have mentioned before how much I like Just A Car Guy, and check it out every day. I did not know about Dean’s Garage, and discovered it is pretty amazing itself. It is a site that has some amazing posts, and focuses on design. Inside, there are a ton of rare stories about cars and the auto industry that I never heard before, and he covers a huge array of topics. I highly recommend bookmarking it, and checking it out regularly.
Our first story is about a guy who lashed a half dozen motorcycles together, started them, and basically crashed. His excuse for leaving the crash scene is great…he had an appointment with his tailor.
Next we have an Italian race car builder known for mailing live scorpions to competitors. He builds a car, loads it with rancid cheese, only to watch it crash in the end. Strange story, strange guy.
In Japan, there is a famous quote…”Next time don’t use Hula Hoops.” This is the story of the man, and his car that brought us that line, still heard in a popular Japanese song.
Here is the story of a good old American scam artist, who built a car, took some money, and disappeared. Gotta love the roaring 30’s.
Take one Canadian, one hockey puck to the head, and you have a great idea for a new car. In the end, it was a bad idea from the start.
This is the story of a German in the 1930’s that built a huge car, with a huge Zepplin engine, huge power, but no brakes. It ends the way you expect it to.
The short story of the world’s most dangerous safe car, or the world’s most safe dangerous car, built using a 12 horsepower motor and a great iron claw for a brake.
Article courtesy of Chris Raymond
Photographs courtesy of Just A Car Guy and Dean’s Garage
My beautiful 1994 Jaguar XJS 4.0L Coupe is finally for sale. She went on eBay today, and I hope she will find a good family to take care of her. The eBay ad was pretty huge, considering all the details I had to put in. I listed all her options, current condition, and added a little history lesson for fun. She has some miles on her, but she also has about $24,000.00 put into her since 2001.
I had some great times in that car, including bringing her to several car shows and concours. She always attracted a crowd, and every time I took her out, someone would compliment me on her condition. One time another driver followed me to a store just to ask me about her. He had never seen a coupe, and wanted to see the inside.
My favorite part of owning that car was the way it looked. From the back, the “flying buttresses” create a sweeping line from the roof to the rear lights, and frames the window giving it almost an arch shape. The rear fog lights make the car look like an exotic car, and the front pilot/city headlamps glow when the low beams are off, giving it the appearance of glowing cat’s eyes. The car is much lower than a normal car, and only about 7 inches taller than a Ford GT40, and the length of the hood is massive, and has a great power bulge.
Inside, nothing is allowed to penetrate the silence. The car has the best concert stereo system I have ever seen, and there is almost no connection to the outside world when the windows are up. Leather is everywhere and thick carpets add to the feeling of elegance. The wood trim, which is a honey burled Elm is perfect, and really glows warmly in the early evenings. Plus, as a really cool option, the car has a weather radio integrated into the system. I have no need to use it, but once during a snow storm it was cool to show it off as a 1990’s toy.
I have driven that car for about 4 years and as a daily driver in the beginning. I also have a few tickets from when I decided to test out the top speed. The highest my nerves could allow me to go was about 140mph on a dead straight section of a desolate highway. The car had no problem getting there, and the ride was still, calm, and rock steady.
I wrote about how the front end of the car seems to be wider than the back, and it feels like driving a power boat. I think it is because of the taper in the rear buttresses, and the way the front rises when you stomp on the gas. It is a cool car to drive, very quick around corners thanks to the speed sensitive power steering, and purrs like a cat. It also has a strange dash, where the distance from the instrument cluster to the window is only about an inch. Get in a new car with a huge two foot deep dash, and my little Jag seems like a toy, or a go cart.
I’ll miss my car, but it is time for me to move on. I have started to look around for my next project, and hope to find one soon. As a person who is all about car design, I doubt I will ever find anything as beautiful, or as different. I’ll keep the beautiful photos to remember her by.
Lately I have been having some health issues that have delayed my writing for Chris on Cars. I expect to be back in the saddle soon, and appreciate everyone’s patience. So I thought it would be a great time to highlight some of the car sites that I am a fan of, and that I read almost every day. Sure, there are a ton of car sites out there, but these are unique. They offer the best of the web, and a thoroughly different perspective on all things automotive.
Just A Car Guy – Most auto sites offer the latest news, sprinkled with supercars that we can never afford. This site, written by Jesse, is one of my favorites. Just A Car Guy offers daily snippets from the web, as well as some great commentary. He travels more than anyone I know, looking for car shows, races, and events to give his readers a personal glimpse into all things cool. His own photos at shows are amazing, though he concedes his girlfriend’s are better. Jesse also scours the web for the most amazing photos from other sites, including everything from a Nazi turbine train, to forgotten cars like this week’s Bailey, to the coolest crazy auto stuff I’ve ever seen. He is a human web crawler and his links offer up a never ending list of great sites.
Just A Car Guy is more than a car site, it is a lesson in culture. His archives, some of which are posted here include everything…hood ornaments, car pin striping, Prius humor, hearses, motorcycles, belly tankers, tracked vehicles, hot rods, Ferrari, billboards, old photographs, schooners, and anything from aircraft to Zora Duntov. The sheer volume is amazing. This is why he is continually voted one of the top blogs on the web. If I were allowed only one site to read, this is the one.
But something else sets him apart from everyone else. When I started out, I sent out emails to every blog known to man. I asked for advice and for them to review my site. Only one person answered, and that was Jesse. He became a sort of mentor for me, and is still the only person I would ask or accept advice from. He told me my photos sucked, and that I was writing the same crap as everyone else. He said I should take my own photos, and credit the ones I found. He told me to write from the heart about stuff that interested me, and not to just regurgitate auto news. It wasn’t easy advice, but it was the best I ever got. Read this site…you won’t be able to stop.
Just A Car Gal – Not to be outdone, his girlfriend Tere has her own great blog called Just a Car Gal.blogspot.com. Again, this is a fantastic site, loaded with extraordinary photography and content. Check out her archive list…it includes everything you can think of. Right now she has the coolest video from 1945 VJ Day, that show some absolutely amazing cars, and right below it is an old T train from Boston that I remember riding on. Eclectic and cool are the best way to describe this blog.
The Breakdown Lane – This is a new blog that was started by a friend, Paul Stevens. He recently left the corporate world to start his own automobile appraisal business. He is a member of the International Vehicle Appraisers Network, and appraises everything from classic cars to motorcycles. More importantly, he has started The Breakdown Lane. The site is named after the local Massachusetts name for a road emergency shoulder . It includes a blog, which has some great articles about local events and museums, and a calendar.
The calendar is a collection of every car event in the area, and I check in every few days to see what is going on. It is a one-stop place to see all the car shows, cars and coffee events, and automotive related shows in southern Mass. Eventually, I expect him to increase the coverage to other areas, but for me, it is absolutely the best idea ever. Paul also has a flair for writing, and his blog highlights all the events he attends. It is still new, but the blog section should grow to be fantastic. He has a great love of cars, and a damn good knowledge of everything automotive…in spite of the fact that he is a Porsche fan. I recommend everyone check his site out, and then have your car appraised.
The Automotive Philosopher – Aaron Warren’s Blog . This one I am adding in because it is the best writing ever. All you have to do to become a believer is read his bio, as soon as I did, I was hooked. It describes everything I love about cars. Aaron is a connoisseur, a thinking man’s gearhead. He has the clearest, most intelligent perception of car design and automotive culture, and his writing is brilliant. Every post is amazing, every thought is perfect. Seriously, this guy should write books. Smart, witty and genuine, I love this blog.
You Are What You Drive – I received a request in my email inbox to check out a new site. Written by Bill, the site is called You Are What You Drive, and I think this one has potential. Bill didn’t seem too chatty in the emails, but he has a interesting take on all things cars. I like his idea to write about whatever interests him, and his perception on car design and styling is spot on. The site is new, so there isn’t a ton of posts, but I think it could be one of the more interesting blogs I have found this year. Surprisingly, I agree with a lot of his opinions, and hope he continues writing larger posts in the future. It is somewhat addictive, and I can’t wait to see what he writes next. You Are What You Drive is definitely a breath of fresh air in the auto blog world, and I expect it to become very popular. Read it, bookmark it, and watch this guy develop…he has a great eye for what’s interesting.
It is time, once again for another posting about cars. Today, I decided to take a quick look through eBay for some deals. eBay constantly surprises me by the type of cars listed, whether it is a Kaiser Darrin convertible, a beautiful Facel Vega, or a 1.9 million dollar Chevrolet Corvette…there is always something interesting. Here are four cars that I thought were very cool, and pretty affordable. Enjoy!
1964 Iso Rivolta IR 340 GT #185
Here is a great example of a rare car for very small money. Iso, is an Italian manufacturer that specialized in Isetta Bubble Cars and home appliances during the 1950’s. This example is a Rivolta. It was created with the help of automotive icons like Giotto Bizzarrini, Giorgetto Giugiaro, Nuccio Bertone, and Renzo Rivolta. Powered by a 5.4 L V-8 Chevrolet small block engine, this example was repainted in 1980, and has had extensive upgrades to the mechanicals. At last check the car was for sale at 26,700.00 and due to expire soon.
1970 Mercedes Benz 300 SEL Landau Convertible
This car has been available for a while, and I first noticed it a few months back. Usually, when I am searching through the M-B section of eBay, I look for the big 300 Adenauer, the 600 Grosser, or the wonderful W113 Pagoda. This car was unique enough to catch my attention, and I had to include it. The seller gives a detailed description of the marque, and the model. The car is a European model, and the seller is in Canada…so good luck getting it registered in the US. The most interesting part of the car is the half-convertible roof, which makes it look like a 600 Pullman Landaulet. The current bid is 19,995.00 and its available for 1 more day.
1968 Lancia Fulvia Rallye Coupe
I love this car, but I could never buy it. Any gearhead knows that Lancia is a hateful little car that is always in the shop. In spite of this, Lancia succeeded in creating seven of the greatest cars in the world, and won the World Rallye Championship ten times. Unfortunately, Lancia as a company was insane. They built the Beta out of steel so thin, that on a windy day it would actually change shape. On the Monte Carlo, it had a tendency to lock up if you even looked at the middle pedal, a problem they fixed by removing the brake servo, which gave it no brakes at all. Lancia was, and is completely mad, but one look at this Fulvia, and I bet you start wondering where your checkbook is. This particular example is a Rallye 1.3 Coupe that features Cromodora wheels. The current bid is 7,800.00 and its available for another 7 days.
1986 Jaguar XJ6
I am always amazed by the amount of great Jaguars for sale on eBay. Jaguar is one of my favorite marques, in spite of the fact that they are expensive to maintain, and love the shop more than I love cars. For under 20 grand, you can find some stunning examples of E-Type coupes, XJ12’s, and even a few XJS-C’s. This car is from California, and has only 49,000 miles. It is a beautiful example of one of the prettiest saloons ever made, and is currently priced at 3,450.00 with 2 days left.
Check out eBay, even if you are not in the market for a car…they have the most eclectic selection of great cars available anywhere, and it is a blast to cruise the pages looking for the latest gem. Thanks for reading.
It was an idea that was born during a corporate staff meeting, by a simple copy boy with a dream to change the world. That dream developed into a full-scale project that included some of the greatest minds in the automotive world, from designers to engineers, and from countries as varied as America and the United States. These experts were gathered from all parts of the globe, sequestered into a small cabin in northern Minnesota, without food or water, with only one task – List the “Top Ten Ugliest Cars from 2010.” In the end, tragedy would strike our small group when it was learned that designers and engineers choose not to thrive without food and water for extended periods of time, and eventually try to eat the simple copy boy. The result is this list, a life’s work so to speak, from those that gave their lives for your reading enjoyment.
The Mother of all ugly cars – The Pontiac Aztek
2010 Nissan Juke – The mother of all ugly cars. The mere sight of this vehicle caused two of our team members to instantly go blind…a fact that made their participation in the rest of the list very difficult. This car is Pontiac Aztek ugly, with more weird body lines than a morbidly obese woman doing yoga. This car looks like Pumba the Warthog, from the Lion King. Simply replace those hideous rally inspired lights with tusks, and start humming Hakuna Matata, and you will see what I mean. The Nissan Joke is an atrociously designed, oddly proportioned sports crossover, which means that it is both useless on or off the road. I have seen things uglier than this, but I have always had to pay admission for the privilege.
2010 Lincoln MKT – For some reason, the people at Ford decided to eliminate Mercury, and then put foolish Cheshire cat grins on each of their vehicles. The car has the baleen smile of a Right whale (look it up), and the odd styling of a fat minivan. Lincoln, which has always had a huge segment of the limousine/livery market, is trying to convince the public that this will replace the aging Town Car. It will not work, and the entire segment will be owned by Cadillac. This is an ugly SUV, disguised as a bloated minivan. To describe the rear end, our group was reminded of hugely obese women in short skirts – hearses – and hugely obese women in hearses…this caused many nightmares. Sadly, neither image is popular in today’s marketplace. Lincoln is doomed.
2010 Acura ZDX – Here is a company that can be proud of its vehicles, its sales, and its image of upscale sporty Japanese cars. However, the designers at Acura wanted more…they wanted huge can openers on the grille. They, in their infinite wisdom, decided to make the nose of each car twice as big, and then paint it with zinc oxide like some Baywatch lifeguard. When this was finished, they said to themselves “We can still do more…” and thus, they created the newest illegitimate child of the automotive world, the 4-door Sports CUV Coupe segment. This new segment lacks the ground clearance, cargo capacity, or ability for off-roading of an SUV; as well as the passenger capacity, head clearance, performance, comfort or style of a sedan. It lacks everything needed for a usable vehicle, and does it in a shape that reminded our group of a suppository, or a turtle (they were pretty loose by then). It is form without function, and has less rear seat room than a Mazda RX8, assuming someone could duck low enough to sit in back. This is what you get when you let a 28-year-old woman design a car.
2010 Mitsubishi Eclipse – This car has always tried hard to look cool, like the kids who flip the collars of their polo shirts, or wear trendy black clothes. Despite its efforts, it will always remain a cheap impersonation of a true sports car, and an overweight wanna-be. The latest version reminded the group of a bagel…though they were pretty hungry by then. Anywho, it is a bulbous mess, and the new grill gives it the surprised look of a blow up doll.
2010 Jeep Compass – This car was one of the first picks for our group of experts. They were sure that Jeep had re-hired all the AMC/Nash designers, and created an Airflyte for the 21st century (remember, these are experts, and they will make obscure references). In the spirit of the Pontiac Aztek, the Compass designers worked in teams, one each for the front and back, but never communicated. Loaded with plastic, the car looks cheap, and the wheels look too small. It made the group very sad…much like the lack of food and water.
2010 Mazda Speed 3 – By the time the group considered this vehicle, they were desperately sad. One view of the nose on this car changed all that, and they laughed and laughed. From the side, the nose just hangs out in space, made worse by the lack of a tail. Crowned by an air scoop that resembles a wart, and the now-standard Mazda “Maniacal Clown” face, it is the perfect car for Halloween. Afterwards, it took a lot of Thorazine to calm down the experts.
2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser – This vehicle is like a cartoon version of the old Land Cruiser. It is stubby and boxy, and it’s rounded nose and upright windshield makes it look like something SAAB would have built, if they did enough drugs. The suicide doors, rubber interior, and white roof make it one of the oddest vehicles ever made by Toyota, and our group of experts decided it would make a perfect military vehicle in Toontown. Of course, they were doing a lot of nitrous oxide by this time…
2010 Cadillac CTS Coupe – “Ass, Ass, Ass.” There is nothing else to this car, except for a huge, titanic ass. Our experts could not fathom who had told Cadillac that “fat” was a good look for a sports coupe, and could not find a single thing good with this design. In fact, every time the CTS Coupe was brought up for discussion, all anyone would do is scream “Ass, Ass, Ass.” Everything about this car is wrong, and to me, it looks like a sneaker, but it did make them all giggle like school girls.
2010 Honda Element – This is a regular on every ugly car list, and I threw it in for effect. Basically, it is a washing machine on wheels, slathered in plastic and ugly from every angle. The plastic panels on the body make it look like its being shipped somewhere. The experts were forming a revolt by this point, so I did this one myself.
2010 Porsche Panamera 4 – This was the hardest car for our group of experts to evaluate. By now, they were busy going in and out of consciousness, and whining about being thirsty. Three had tried to escape earlier in the day, so I knew that the Panamera had to be addressed quickly. Eventually, our experts were able to contact the police, and it was decided that the car looked like a microwaved Porsche 911, and that it was wrong to keep people locked in a remote cabin for 60 days.
Barring legal issues brought on by our “treatment” of the panel of experts, we will try to redo this list every year. Let me know if they missed anything you consider hideous, and I can try to “invite” them all out to the cabin for more deliberations.
If you know anything about strange British cars, then you have probably already heard of the Morgan. It is the only car built with ash frame rails, used right up to the 21th century…yes, real wood! Morgan has always been different. It is a company that started making three-wheeled vehicles in 1909, founded by HFS Morgan, passed to his son Peter, and then Peter’s son, Charles. Morgan only produces a handful of cars (640 in 2007) and has long waiting lists for its product. In the past, people have had to wait ten years for a new car.
Morgan sells a unique group of cars, from its roadster, to its child “pedal car,” to its Life Car; all are strange in a comforting sort of way. It is a company with a peculiar habit of having one foot in the past, and one in the future. Morgans were once the cars of university professors, writers, and raconteurs, and now they are spotted at the trendiest nightclubs and premiers.
Not long ago, Morgan updated its line with the Aero8 and Aeromax (also with ash rails). These cars were famous for their modern interpretation of classic styling, with long hoods and flowing fenders. They were also famous for being very cross-eyed.
Slowly, Morgan tried to fix the problem by moving the lights to the center of the fenders, but it never completely went away. These cars were stunning, with flowing pre-war styled fenders, a Bugatti-like back shell, and reverse gothic styled windows. The front was bug-ugly. They were cursed with being walleyed, but also with a strange covered side-pipe exhaust system, guaranteed to slow roast the lower side body paint. Finally, in a nod to grand Tudor-styled country homes, the car was endowed with a wood-beamed ceiling and fine leather seating.
Eventually, Morgan started to think of the American market, and developed the SuperSports, which toned down some of the styling, and gave it a targa top. Only 150-200 of these cars will ever be made, and it is expected to retail at $150,000.00 US.
Of course, Morgan still had time to create bizarre concepts like the Life Car. This car was originally a Hydrogen/proton membrane exchange fuel-cell vehicle, but now uses hybrid technology. Using aluminum and lightweight materials, including unusual wooden seats, the car is another example of a stunning, but strange style.
Now, the new Morgan has had Lasik surgery (or I have) because it looks amazing. It is called the EVA GT concept, and it looks like an Aeromax did the nasty with a Life Car. The new EvaGT is a four-seater, with the usual huge front end, swoopy lines, and Morgan performance. It looks like the car John Steed from “The Avengers” would drive if he were in “Minority Report.” Worse, it looks as if someone squished an Aston Martin Vanquish. The EvaGT has beautiful styling, but remains quirky and strange.
The car is powered by a BMW 3.0L twin turbo straight six, giving it 300 horsepower, and a 0-60 time of just over 4 seconds. With a top speed of over 170mph, this car is no slouch. Though, even at 55mph, the car will look like it is doing 100. Sleek, to the point of almost being comical; the car does not look like anything ever produced. At first glance, the car seems like a movie prop, and looks out of place in normal traffic. It seems too low, too sleek to be a real car.
One of my favorite cars was always the Morgan Aeromax, basically due to the back windows. I could never accept the front design, with its crossed eyes. Now, I may have a new favorite car, the EvaGT. There is still something very wrong with the design, but I just cannot figure it out. Morgan has never been a “normal” car company, but they still make the most striking cars in the world.
Article courtesy of Chris Raymond
Photos courtesy of Morgan Motor Cars, Netcarshow, and Google Images
For most of us, it is almost impossible to drive down the street alone. There always seems to be some ancient fossil driving in front of us, and the neighborhood redneck in his lifted super truck right behind. The reason is overpopulation, and there are now 6.7 billion people in the world, and almost 1 billion cars. Given this many people, most would ask, “Why are the world’s automakers not swimming in money?” Common sense would say that if there were 5.7 billion people without cars, and another billion that will need to replace the crappy cars they have, then the automakers should be so rich that they are coating their private tax havens in antihydrogen ($1,750 trillion dollars per ounce – Isn’t Google wonderful?).
You see, auto executives are not the brightest little bulbs on the Christmas tree. In fact, they are not even as smart as the Sham-Wow guy. Yes, both spend their nights beating up hookers, but more importantly, the executives insist on selling cars that are too expensive for most people, while the Slap-Chop guy sells cheap crap to everyone. Volume is the key to the future.
This brings me to some trivia: Of the two cars shown below, which is the bestselling car in America, selling over 457,000 units? Which car outsold the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, with over 10 million cars sold since its launch in 1979? Which car is in the top 20 most popular cars ever produced? Wrong! The answer is the Little Tikes Cozy Coupe, which sells for 50 bucks.
Why would I give you these insignificant details? Because the cheapest car always sells the most and because it’s funny how much alike they are. One of them (I am not sure which) is the Tata Nano, the cheapest car in the world, and the other is a children’s toy. The Nano is a miniscule car, based on the Little Tikes Cozy Coupe that most children have, and sells for $2,200 dollars. This car was supposed to change the world, and may still, if they ever fix the niggly little problem of its spontaneous combustion. One of these two vehicles is the future of the automobile industry.
Tata is not the only one making cheap cars. Now, Renault-Nissan is getting into the fray, with a model that will sell for $2,500 dollars. Renault already has a runaway hit with the stripped Logan sedan, which sells for $7,200 dollars. Over 450,000 Logan sedans have sold in 51 countries, and their plants are working round the clock to meet the demand. There is a race to the bottom of the price pyramid that will affect the business every bit as much as Henry Ford’s Model T did a century ago.
Granted, the Tata is not the best car ever made, with its 33 horsepower engine and dinner plate wheels. However, Tata is expecting to introduce them to the US market in 2012, and expect sales to be “brisk.” Tata is also aiming their sites on the billions of customers in China, India, Brazil, and Russia. With that many potential customers, they could sell a lot of cars.
Within a few years, companies like Volkswagen, Peugeot, and Fiat will also start selling in this market, and with some help from Geely, maybe even Chrysler. Car makers should be rolling in money, all they have to do is start selling cars like the Cozy Coupe.
Article by Chris Raymond
Photos courtesy of Google Images, Car Review, Tata Motors, Motor Beam.cm, and Business Week
Today, I decided to add some pictures I found while cruising the web. Some of these are from new sites, so if you have the chance, I recommend checking them out. This first group is from the site car-cars.cn which has a lot of great photos, including this one of the McLaren.
Here are some shots of my favorite car in the world, the one I would have picked in my post “Which Car Would You Choose.” This is the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport, the fastest car in the world. This car is just awesome! Photos are from a great site called Cool Cars and Girls. If you are looking for some great car photos, this is the one to check out.
Here is a design sketch for a Volvo P1800, one of the prettiest cars from the 1960’s. This car was designed by Mattias Vöcks, a Swedish man who spends most of his time hand assembling supercars for Koenigsegg. The design makes the car lower, cleaner, and more refined than the original. If I had the skill and money, I would make this car myself…it is beautiful. I think it proves that the original design was ahead of it’s time, and that it could still be competitive in today’s marketplace. Photos courtesy of Latemag.com
This next photo is from Luxury Launches, and it announces the debut of a new car called the 20 Spada Codatroncadue. I have no idea if I read that right, or what in hell they are talking about. It may even be in some different language. Whatever, it is pretty and deserved a look. From what I can learn on the interweb, the car is from an Italian design house called Spada Concept, who worked with a company called UK Garage. There are plans to build the car, which is based on the Chevrolet Corvette.
Here are some more photos from Cool Cars and Girls, which include the Ford Shelby GR-1 Concept, a KTM X-Bow, and the Lamborghini Ankonian Concept. Check out this site for a huge library of cool car pictures.
Here is a very pretty Ferrari F60 Enzo, all done up in black. Below it is a very ugly Ferrari F60 Enzo, all done up in sea foam green. If you had to choose which one to keep, I am betting it would be the black one. If anyone knows who the owner of the green car is, please let me know so we can have him tortured.
Finally, here are two pictures I thought would be interesting. The first is a Santa Maria, California police car, after it hit a tree. Officer Damon Badnell survived the wreck with just a few broken bones, but as you can see from the vehicle, the crash was horrific. Photo is courtesy of Jalopnik.
This second photo is of a 1936 Henderson motorcycle I found while cruising the web. Check out my friend at Just a Car Guy, for some more pictures of the bike. The art deco styling is fantastic, and i love the way it appears to be floating. On a side note, Just a Car Guy has some of the best stuff on the web. I am pretty sure he has a whole factory of Guinea pigs, all forced into indentured servitude, just scouring the web for great photos and articles. I spent a few days going through all 14.7 trillion posts, and each one was amazing. Check out his site, I guarantee it will be worth your time…and send him a note to release the poor Guinea pigs.
I was just spending some time checking out the competition, when I realized something amazing…I don’t care anymore. Lately, reading car sites seems as pointless as sticking up for Obama. Sure, in your heart you really want to, but the drain in actually performing the act is intolerable. I have to do it, if only so that I know that my own site is “different” from all the others.
In order to make this as painless as possible, I have categorized all the websites with a number, which rates how much I want to pull out my fingernails. Sites like Motor Trend rate a ten, which means my fingers start to bleed even before I see the page. So far, there are only about eight sites that rate a 1, meaning I enjoy and understand them. These are the sites that have unique and interesting content. They have writing that is intelligent, pictures that are amazing, and are all very rare in the world of automotive websites. I display the list in my Preferred Websites section, and I read them every week.
However, today I am going to have a little fun ripping on the “most popular” auto websites on the internet. Of course, I know this is a bad idea, and one day when I am bigger, I will pay for this act of treason. Fortunately, according to my stats, that day won’t come around for another 400 years.
Jalopnik – What the hell, am I really that old? This is written in some combination of slang, and Mayan, where the target audience is 9-year-old rich white kids, who are way too self absorbed and cool to even read the site. With sections like #carpocolypse, #planelopnik, #ifeelgassy, and #nicepriceorcrackpipe, I have no idea what the hell they are saying. The whole site is like the mother from “Precious,” mean and crazy, but you still feel a need to try to understand. Today, it had a shot of a parking garage, with the text: “the two towers look like corn cobs and have crazy parking garages.” It’s like Beavis bought a website and is now writing about cars. The problem is that they get ten gazillion hits a second, which is more than Google, AOL, Yahoo, and Hot Grannies with Guns combined. This is a perfect example of a corporation trying to look cool, just read the quotes:
–“NBC used to describe Thursday night as Must See TV because it was a ratings powerhouse. Today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe AMX is described as a Must See AMC, and its 390 V8 is stronger than any Thursday night.” Or, “If your name’s Irwin, you might want to steer clear of today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe Corvette. For everybody else, this well preserved throwback to the ‘70s offers vintage t-topping, but will the price make you feel its sting?” OMG, STOP, PLEASE STOP!!!
Motor Trend – This old war horse first appeared in 1949, the same year our Secretary of Defense took a dive from a 16th story window; the same year Germany, Jordan, Bhutan, NATO, The Peoples Republic of China and Israel were established; and the same year Rick Ocaseck was born. That is a long time ago. TV wasn’t even around yet, and cars were just slow lumps of iron. The site looks like its been around since the Truman Doctrine, and it focuses on bland cars and bland writing. I would tell you more, but instead I decided to shoot myself in the eye with a pencil. Before I blinded myself, I compared it to AARP, and was surprised to find out that the AARP site was much more interesting, and the people in the photos look much younger. Check them out Motor Trend and AARP, click on the magazine and tell me which is better.
Top Speed – Their slogan is no boring cars, but the front page gives me information on JD Power Quality rankings (OMG LOL, ROFL), The VW Jetta Hybrid (Hybrid, that means its both alien and human), and the Nissan Juke which is selling like hotcakes in Japan (How in hell do Japanese people even know what a hotcake is?). No boring cars here, just bland writing and washed out stupid pictures. The owner, creator,and master there wants to “build the biggest online community of speed enthusiasts,” and his chief car writer loves computer more than anything else. Hmm, I wonder who uses the most ADD medication in the group.
There are more bad sites, including the ones who are updated every 15 calendar years, and the 50 million Russian sites dedicated to fake Lamborghini’s. However, there are important things going on in the world today, so I must find a way to spend my time better than in the world of banality. Check out my list of Preferred sites, you will be impressed with their unique look at cars. They don’t play cool, they are cool.
Article Courtesy of Chris Raymond
Photos courtesy of Motor Trend, Jalopnik, Greenwala, Just a Car Guy
When I was younger, I wanted to be a car designer. I saw the pictures of the massive design studios in magazines, and wanted to work in places like Detroit and Dearborn. During those days, Detroit was a cool place to be, and not the barren wasteland it is today.
I spent most of my time drawing pictures of cars (though, most still had guns mounted on the hood) and it took me many years just to get the form down properly. One thing I could never do was draw 3-D, and my two dimensional concepts always ended up in the trash. I moved on to my collection of Matchbox cars, and started a miniature coachbuilding business. I would take my little Rolls Royce Phantom models, and using a hacksaw, cut off the roof over the driver. After creating a fleet of Sedanca De Ville Rollers, I moved to my Lamborghini, creating a perfect one off targa version of the Muira. Back then, the plastic windows formed a shell under the entire roof of the car, so my masterpiece was created when I turned a simple Mercedes 600 into a Mercedes 600 Presidential “Bubbeltop” Landaulet, simply by cutting off the rear portion of the roof.
Design is important to me. The image of Raymond Loewy chomping on a cigar, looking towards the future, was the picture of power and style. Car Designers became automotive stylists, and they alone decided what we would buy, and what we would covet. The resume of designers like Loewy, Bill Mitchell, Harley Earl, Elwood Engel, and Virgil Exner was a history of the country since the 1930’s. They defined who we were. I knew that becoming a designer would fulfill every dream I ever had as a child.
Boy was I wrong. Designers today are small, typical, and afraid. In recent conversations with car designers about the business, I discovered that their number one priority was not the car, not the design, but whether or not their boss wanted them dead. They work in places that are vastly different from the pictures in Life Magazine, in run down, dangerous cities where they are more likely to get shot, than complete a design.
They know that most of their contemporaries were laid off or fired, and think that they are next. They do not want to talk about themselves, their designs, or anything related to cars for fear of someone hearing them. Spies are everywhere and the walls have ears. They refuse to reveal their names, or their resumes, and ask that all conversations take place in empty parking garages at night.
They are scared, and most are probably right that they are about to join the unemployed. The auto industry has crushed most everything that is creative, and anything left is killed by the committee. Management is something that sweeps over their work area, picking off the weak and threatening to come back for more. This is car design in the new Detroit, and the pictures of happy designers working in modern airy studios are just that, pictures. Today, stress is king.
Creativity and artistry were important factors before the autopocalypse. Now they are all just like you and I, waiting for the next shoe to drop. I suppose there are some out there who still live in a design world where people are free, wear bright colors and have music playing all the time…maybe, but I haven’t spoken to any.
Article courtesy of Chris Raymond
Photos courtesy of spbcar.ru, wired.com, seriouswheels.com and Google Images
What does the movie “Terminator 2” have in common with the future of car design? Surprisingly, a lot more than you may realize. If you have seen the movie, you know about the shape shifting terminator out to kill John Connor. This villain can change its shape, reform from molten metal and do just about anything it wants. Well, it is still science fiction for now, but the people at Carnegie Mellon and Intel are working on something that could bring it to life sooner than you think.
It’s called “Claytronics” and even though it sounds like the evil toy manufacturer from the movie “Sneakers,” it really is a new technology designed to bring us programmable matter. This means that one day we can have atoms called “catoms” that would combine to form any shape we wanted, much like the molten metal from “Terminator 2.” Carnegie Mellon and Intel have developed technology that would create tiny computers that can interact, share information, and connect to each other when needed. Today, they are still too big, but the intent is to miniaturize them with nanotechnology, eventually creating a shape-shifting material. Designers are also working on programs for these microcomputers that will manage the re-shaping and allow them to communicate.
The demonstration video shows a group of car designers reviewing a model. When changes are needed, they physically reform the model to any shape. If the car should be longer, they just give it a tug. If the roofline needs to be lower, all they do is press on the roof until it matches their needs. Imagine a world where CAD is brought to real life models, all while micro computers collect, store and share the data on their present form and color. Everything that is design would immediately transfer from your mind into physical form, and car designers would become sculptors.
It gets even better, where one day the average consumer will be able to make the same changes as the designers. Imagine you are driving along in your 2025 Ford Taurus, and you need to carry some wallboard. With just a few adjustments, the car can open up to become a pickup, or on sunny days, it can become a convertible. You can even imagine a time when you can change that little Ford Taurus to look exactly like that new Rolls Royce sitting next to you, or have all the cars in a community change into bright yellow smart cars.
It doesn’t stop there. Imagine a time when the phone rings, and when answered, the phone takes the shape of the person on the other end, in 3-D. Imagine a time when your car folds itself into a block to prevent theft and minimize parking. How about an item that reforms itself if broken? I could go on for days on this because the possibilities are endless.
Given time and money, there should be some breakthroughs on Claytronics and Nanotechnology. Developing the ideas into systems that are small, smarter, more efficient, and more capable could change the way we live. Having these technologies could also bring out the designer in each of us.