Archive for Driver’s Seat

Antique fuel

Not an unreasonable question, this:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: How do you know when gas has gone bad?

And then we launch into Too Much Exposition:

I have a 79 Firebird that has sat for about 5 years and I am starting down the road to running it again. I filled it with the good stuff before parking it. I am assuming that after this long it has gone bad but considering that I paid over $4/gallon for it at the time I hate to just dump it unless somebody has a good idea on how to save it.

Sorry, pal, but old hydrocarbons are not worth saving no matter what you paid for them. (Why do you think we burn ’em in the first place?)

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Quote of the week

The future of the sports car, says Jack Baruth, looks bleak indeed:

Of all the objects we use in our daily lives, only the automobile is truly expected to suffer in perpetuity for its ecological doubleplusungoodcrimethink. My God, for three dollars I can buy a bag of razors and use each one of them like four times and just pitch it in the trash when I’m done. Why it is that I can buy twenty pounds of plastic razors a year but Porsche has to geld the 911 in order to satisfy the unelected bureaucrats of the European Union? What if I could arrange to shave with a straight razor and sharpen it myself and keep it for like ten years? Could I, at that point, have a 2017 Carrera GTS that is just like the 2015 Carrera GTS, only maybe with more logical satellite-radio controls?

Here’s the worst part, and I swear to you that I will be proven right on this: it will all be for naught, in the long run. You cannot successfully appease the tyranny of the environmentalists any more than Neville Chamberlain could wheedle and kneel his way out of the Anschluss. More concessions will be necessary, and the pace at which the goalposts are moved — the rate of change, the acceleration of aggression towards our beloved internal combustion — will increase until it cannot be satisfied. In the long run, we will be confined to vomit-colored plastic transportation modules and if your behavior is exceptionally deferential towards your betters you may be granted a transparent roof so you can watch them fly overhead.

In the longer-than-long run — well, you have to Read The Whole Thing. I hope he’s right about that, because he’s almost certainly right about the near term.


Assign it to my holding company

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me, um, how about this?

From the story:

The famous psychedelic Porsche convertible driven by late singing legend Janis Joplin is going up for sale.

Auction house RM Sotheby’s said the Porsche 356C 1600 Cabriolet would go on the block on December 10 in New York and estimated the sale would generate more than $US400,000.

Joplin’s family, after lending it to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland for the last couple of decades, has decided for some reason to sell the car. A ’65, this was one of the last 356 models to be produced, after which Porsche moved on to the 911. Presumably, her friends all drove these.


On time and moving along

The yutzim of Yahoo! Answers fear timing belts the way political operatives fear subpoenas: how could anything good come from them?

This ought to exasperate a few of them:

I just realized our Mitsubishi Endeavor was overdue for a timing belt. The factory maintenance schedule calls for replacement at 105,000 miles and we are at 113,000. Not something you want to stall on as failure of this $2 part will destroy your $5,000 engine, so belly up to the bar and flex your credit card or prepare for two days of hard labor.

It probably costs more than $2, but it doesn’t really matter how much it costs because the big pain is the time and effort needed to do the work. The Endeavor, like most modern cars has the engine mounted transversely, which means the front of the engine (where all the belts are) is pushed up against the right front fender. A whole boat load of stuff has to come off before you can even see the timing belt, much less get to it. A shop will charge 5 or $600 just for the labor.

For what it’s worth, several Ferraris require that the engine actually be removed to change out the belt, which if you’re really lucky will not run you more than four figures.

“Lucky you,” they say to me. “You have a chain.” Yeah, but chains have tensioners too, and tensioners are no more reliable in this application, and if the chain goes, about the top 40 percent of the engine goes with it. (Part price: $121. Book labor: 12.8 hours. So in the unlikely event that nothing else broke, a bad chain is $1500 to start.)

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Low-information buyers

If I didn’t see at least one of these every damn day I might have a smidgen of sympathy:

Me and my fiancé were in the market for a new (used) vehicle. We went to a dealership and found a great car, decent price, and with a down payment that was a little more than we were comfortable with. Now after we have signed and driven off the lot, we KNOW for a FACT that we made the wrong choice and that we aren’t going to be able to afford the car along with its insurance and all of the other bills we already have. –Yes we should have thought this out more thoroughly but we are about to have our wedding next month and need more time to get through that and save more for a newer vehicle. It has only been one and a half days since the purchase and we are wanting to just take it back and tell them we are in over our heads and we will eventually have to default the loan and won’t be able to pay for the car. Will the car take back our car? Also note: the down payment was dated for Tuesday and has not yet been processed. Is there anything else we can do to convince them to allow us to return the car and not continue through with this purchase?

Oh, yes, let’s begin the marriage with a seven-year black spot on our credit!

“Good judgment,” said Will Rogers, “comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.” They probably won’t make this mistake a second time — but they’re going to have to eat the consequences of the first.

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The Parthenon of Puke

The new Bentley Bentayga, which presumably almost rhymes with “Talladega,” as seen by the never-even-slightly-jaded Jack Baruth:

[I]t will be a way to spend $200,000 or more on a VW Touraeg. Another way to think of it is that it will be a Lincoln Navigator for people who have more money. As such, it has a guaranteed place on the Mount Olympus Of Loathsome Objects. The MOOLO. I just made that up. But you already know what’s on there, don’t you? Clothing by “Vineyard Vines”. The new subdivision they’re putting up down the street, the one where the homes have crown moldings made of Styrofoam and names like “The Dorchester”. The Hublot Big Bang.

The MOOLO rises in its tin-plated majesty above the Venn intersection of expensive and meritless. Its Aphrodite is Paris Hilton and its Zeus is probably a pre-political-aspirations Donald Trump. We live in its shadow and we are hunted by its residents, who earn bonuses eliminating our jobs then back their whale-shaped Infiniti SUVs over our children. In this company, nothing could be more welcome than a vehicle conceived, designed, and marketed as a mobile intimidatory fortress and statement of one’s recent arrival to confounding wealth. Look for one in the rearview mirror of your four-cylinder Fusion soon, pressing its supplier-milled cross-eggcrate into your mind like Laurence Olivier with a set of dentistry tools.

Of course, this sort of vehicular monstrosity was inevitable: it’s just totally unreasonable to ask someone who owns actual Bentley cars to point themselves downmarket to a Range Rover or, God forbid, a Jeep Grand Cherokee, just to have something to haul Missy and her friends to the lacrosse match.

Still, I will defend to the death, if not necessarily my death, your right to blow a quarter-million dollars on any damn motor vehicle you please. But that purchase does not include an automatic — or even a manual — mandate to be taken seriously.

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Dusting off a badge

This is the Borgward P100, circa 1960, of which about 2500 were made before Carl Borgward’s auto company was forced into bankruptcy:

Borgward P100 sedan

(Photo by Lothar Spurzem.)

And this is the Borgward BX 7, circa 2017, to be produced in China:

Borgward BX 7 SUV

How, exactly, is this happening?

On May 21, 2008, the grandson of Carl F. W. Borgward, Christian Borgward, together with his partner Karlheinz L. Knöss, founded Borgward AG in Lucerne (Switzerland)… They started the development of the new Borgward automobiles with the Norwegian stylist Einar J. Hareide, creator of the “Four-Eyes-Face” of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, set up the organisation and engineer team and developed a car concept.

Borgward has announced plans for a new car at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show after a 54-year hiatus.The new company will be backed up financially by Chinese truck manufacturer Foton.

And how this story landed on my plate:

Then again, Herpa Miniaturmodelle GmbH, a German maker of model aircraft and cars, has acquired the rights to the Trabant name.

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Not a stiff-ass Brit

The October Automobile reports on an uncommon auction: a 1996 BMW Z3 James Bond Edition, originally sold as a Christmas Wish List item by Neiman-Marcus. At least part of the $35,000 selling price was due to the presence of a Z3, however briefly, in Goldeneye. I probably shouldn’t have read the specifics:

Bond blue-gray over taupe leather interior with tan cloth top. 114-hp, DOHC, 1.8 liter inline-four —

And there I stopped and stared. I was, somewhere about this time, taking delivery on a ’93 Mazda 626 with a 118-hp, DOHC, inline-four, albeit with two whole liters. I know one person who drives a Z3 — actually saw her whipping it down the Interstate one day — and she’d never have put up with a mouse motor at this level.

BMW apparently heard the writing on the wall, because a 2.8-liter inline-six with something like 189 hp was introduced pretty quickly, though not quickly enough to get it into Neiman’s wish book. And this little Bimmer, with a mere 6,000 miles on the clock, brought $24,200 at the sale, like it was some sort of used car or something.

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Open up that waste gate

As turbochargers show up at the lower end of the Porsche line, Jack Baruth laments the demise of what used to be a pretty big chunk of mystique:

Strictly speaking, it’s been a very long time since a 911 Turbo was the coolest car money could buy — I have to think that the arrival of the Ferrari F355 put a nail in that particular coffin twenty-one years ago, assuming the Corvette ZR1 didn’t do it in 1989 — but the lower-case italic turbo logo stayed ice cold long after the cars to which it was attached lost alpha status. For nearly forty years, ownership of a Porsche Turbo was an unmistakable statement of success, taste, and masculinity, although the various tuners and the 996 Turbo S Tip Cab did a fair amount of damage to the automatic validity of those last two qualities. I’d personally love to own a 911 Turbo and I wish I’d bought a 1996 Turbo instead of a 1995 Carrera back in 2001 when the difference in the money wasn’t a hundred grand like it is today.

Of course, this was predictable. Turbocharging allows automakers to pay lip service to fuel economy while still allowing big(gish) performance numbers, and the fact that driving those cars like they had V8s produces V8-like fuel economy doesn’t seem to disturb the buyers.

Still, Porsche has bread, and it’s aware of the source of butter. The Macan crossover-SUV-thing comes with four different engines worldwide (we don’t get the bottom one here yet): a 2.0-liter four, a 3.0-liter V6, a 3.0-liter diesel V6, and, in the top of the line Macan Turbo, a 3.6-liter V6. Only one car bears the Turbo badge. How many of them actually have turbos? All of them.


Invention needed

There are few contraptions in our culture as counterproductive as the contemporary car alarm, which is loud and annoying to an extent hitherto unknown in society — and for what? By the time the damned thing’s been shut off, the vandals have already taken their leave and your GPS unit.

I call, here, for the rush development of any and all workable alternatives. My current thinking calls for the delivery of a swift but silent poisoned dart into the body of the perp. (“Are you saying that vandals ought to die?” Why the hell not?) This wouldn’t require any more smarts than most current infotainment systems possess, though retrofitting it to older vehicles would presumably be problematic.

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Future breakthrough from the distant past

Pioneer, after all, knows something about frickin’ lasers:

The self-driving cars of the future are coming, but to get here a little bit quicker, they may use technology straight out of the 1980s.

Pioneer is launching manufacturing trials of a new LIDAR (light detection and ranging) system that could help autonomous vehicles scan the world around them, and the company is leaning on its decades of experience with laserdiscs to develop it.

You remember the LaserDisc, don’t you? (If you don’t, dial back to this 1998 piece.)

Driverless vehicles like the Google car already use LIDAR tech to “see,” but the units are very expensive. In fact, the roof-mounted sensors can cost as much as the cars themselves, ranging in price from about $25,000 to over $70,000. Pioneer’s contribution, however, is expected to be much cheaper. By basing its products on the optical pickups used to scan laserdiscs, Pioneer hopes it can bring to cost down to around $85 by 2025, reports Nikkei.

My current LaserDisc player has held up nicely for the last, um, 25 years. (It was around $500 new, or about a third less than the first one I bought in 1982.) The format does have one disadvantage, as pointed out by the submitter of this Fark link: “Not mentioned is if passengers will be required to flip the car halfway to their destination.”

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Mount this, pal

You don’t see General Motors complaining about the name of that mountain in Alaska, do you?

[T]his most American of vehicles is named after a mountain in a park in a state that wasn’t even a state until after the Korean War. Nobody goes there, although it’s possible to be short-roped up the thing the same way the socialites are dragged up the side of Everest. I have no idea what the terrain around Denali looks like and neither do you. What matters is that it represents something beyond civilization:

“But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it. I been there before.”

That’s what Denali is: the territory ahead that we will never reach. Instead, we’ll stay at the office for another evening of forcible civilization and Starbucks. It’s all the better for being essentially useless and inhospitable, because that helps it remain just an idea and not a place you’d use your NetJets share to visit on a long weekend.

And after all, this sort of naming scheme for automobiles has been around for a long time, though certainly the ill-fated Lincoln Versailles has been forgotten by now.

After the mountain was Denali, but before it became Denali again, it was something else entirely:

No wonder, then, that the mountain is being renamed. We don’t deserve a Mount McKinley. McKinley was a winner. He protected American jobs and saved the economy and won a war and picked up Hawaii while he was at it. And when he died, the man he agreed to take as vice-president did a pretty decent job, too. We couldn’t use a guy like that nowadays; wouldn’t know what to do with him. So it’s perfectly reasonable to change Mount McKinley back to Mount Denali. Maybe Rainier will change back to Tacoma before you know it. That’s been in the works since 1921 or so, and it makes more sense. And it would free the name of Rainier to find its natural home: on the side of upscale Enclaves. Enclave Rainier. You know it makes sense. What better way to celebrate a class of vehicles, and of owners, that never looks up from the quotidian to the mountain, or, indeed, anything at all?

Buick, home of the Enclave, was — briefly — home of the Rainier. So all this stuff fits together far better than it has any right to.

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Trademark erased

Infiniti’s US branch tweeted this on Tuesday:

I took one look at it, and shot back:

Turns out that there’s a reason for that:

We knew the Q30 had a lot in common with the Mercedes-Benz A-Class but as these images show, this is far more than a common platform. The steering wheel, instrument cluster, switchgear, and shifter are direct from the Mercedes parts bin. From the looks of the images, the Q30 will even have a Mercedes-style key.

Which invites a fairly obvious question: How are they going to sell this as a Benz competitor when for somewhere around the same price you can get an actual Benz?

There better be some serious chassis tuning going on here. (We already know it’s the same engine: the Mercedes M270 turbo four with around 208 ponies, albeit built by Nissan in the States.)

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Sticking it

TTAC commenter “dolorean,” responding to a piece about BMW’s recent disdain for stick shifts, offers ten reasons why the manual-transmission experience is more rewarding, and most of them make perfect sense to me, particularly this one:

6. American car thieves hate manuals. A vast portion of the country doesn’t know how to manipulate the gears themselves, best anti-theft device in the U.S.

They can always haul it away on a flatbed, but this isn’t an option if you’re in a hurry, and most thieves don’t have time to kill.

And then there’s this one:

10. Most important reason, my girlfriend stands nearly 6′ tall and has nearly 4′ of leg. She likes to wear tiny shorts and skirts. NOTHING hotter than to watch her work a stick. Cannot fathom the same joy from an automatic.

I’ll, um, have to take his word for it.

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Only the names are retro

And this is only a rumor, for now: [warning: autostart video]

Ford Motor Co. is considering a revival of the Bronco sport utility vehicle and Ranger small pickup in the U.S., where truck demand is booming, said a person familiar with [the] company’s plans.

The two models would be built at a Wayne, Michigan, factory that now makes small cars, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing product plans. The move would help Ford preserve some U.S. union jobs amid contract talks. The company may assemble the Focus and C-Max in Mexico, a person familiar with the matter had said.

I’m guessing that the person familiar with the plans is not necessarily the person familiar with the matter.

“In which paragraph will they mention O. J. Simpson?” If you had “third,” step up and claim your prize. Slowly.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)


Wiser guys

From a couple of weeks ago:

Pretty much every issue of Car and Driver — and I’ve seen them all since 1978 — contains at least one bit of prose that simply screams “They’re trying to get nasty letters, aren’t they?”

The 2016 New Car issue, it turns out, is liberally salted with semi-salty stuff. A couple of examples:

Nissan Maxima: “Asking the Maxima to be a sports sedan is like asking Caitlyn Jenner to get back in her decathlon shorts. It just ain’t gonna happen.”

Land Rover Range Rover Evoque: “There’s also a low-speed cruise control for off-road excursions. It will never be used by any Evoque owner, ever.”

Smart Fortwo: “It’s also four inches wider than the outgoing car, finally allowing two adult humans to sit inside without touching in a Duggarly fashion.”

Dodge Durango: “A Brass Monkey appearance package (20-inch burnished-bronze wheels, gloss-black grille, and more odd embellishments) will hit the Durango later in the year and taste of malt liquor and orange juice.”

It’s like Alterman said “Dammit, it says Irreverence on the cover! Now get out there and Irrev!”


The ultimate zombiemobile

Somehow, Saab remains sort of undead:

The resurrected Swedish automaker producing electric 9-3s with a Saab badge signed an agreement with Dongfeng Motor Corporation to help stay afloat, GoAuto in Australia is reporting.

National Electric Vehicle Sweden, the Chinese company that purchased the remains of Saab after its parent company Spyker went bankrupt, announced that it would distribute electric cars in China with automotive giant Dongfeng and add a production facility there, the report details.

In return, NEVS will supply Dongfeng with engineering standards to help it meet safety standards in Europe and North America.

“Dongfeng,” I am told, means “east wind” in Chinese. And in my part of the world, east winds usually mean storms are on their way — not that the Chinese need to worry about that.

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Some hosing going on

Pretty much every issue of Car and Driver — and I’ve seen them all since 1978 — contains at least one bit of prose that simply screams “They’re trying to get nasty letters, aren’t they?” In September 2015, it’s this denunciation of a Fiat by Jared Gall:

The 500X will change nobody’s perception of Italian build quality. Many of the plastic interior surfaces feel hard and hollow, and while the gray door-panel pleather feels natural, it’s not the natural leather that it feels like. More like cold, dead skin before it’s turned into leather — and not necessarily cow skin. Maybe dolphin. Or fat Uncle Carl. It puts the lotion squarely in the basket.

I expect several lambs to be speaking up in the December issue.

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Irate, you rate

Lead story in the Oklahoman today begins with this anecdote:

When a passing motorist yelled “Road rage sucks” at Oklahoma City police Sgt. Matthew Downing during a January 2014 traffic stop, Downing chased the man down in a convenience store, wrestled him to the ground and arrested him.

A supervisor who soon arrived disagreed with Downing’s use of force and subsequent arrest and released the man.

Police Chief Bill Citty directed the department’s Office of Professional Standards to conduct a criminal investigation into the incident.

In February, Downing pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and battery and was sentenced to 90 days’ probation. That same day, he resigned from the department, where leaders say he was still under administrative investigation for the incident. Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said Downing’s guilty plea and resignation were part of his plea agreement, which is typical in criminal cases involving police officers.

Not that I at all object to keeping the police on a fairly tight leash — those rogue cops obsessed with their authority (“Trigger-happy policing,” said Marvin Gaye back in the day) need to be pulled back — but I have to wonder: is it the position of the City, or of the OCPD, that road rage does not suck?


Land of perversity

A report that Tesla is losing about $4000 on each car it sells drew a dismissive comment to the effect that “people aren’t that stupid,” which prompted this eloquent response:

“Its just a car and people aren’t that stupid.”


We put 30″ rims on a Chevy Snailblazer.

Our favorite topping for a burger is another burger.

We can’t name even 10 of the people running the country.

I resent your implication that this country is intelligent.

Valerie Jarrett is running the country. Next!

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Noise disabatement

This nimrod showed up yesterday exhibiting both a lack of taste and a lack of patience:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: five variations on I have a Dodge Ram 1500 2wd regular cab. What can I do to it to make it sound good and loud

If he comes back next week asking for stereo advice, well, God help him. Because I won’t.

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A vast waistline

“Who in the heck writes whole paragraphs and posts about highways?” asks Joe. “It’s a road.” Well, yeah. But before he said that, he said this:

Windshield time is not conducive to a positive outlook on life. I-70 in particular seems to wear me down and over the decades I have found this true of the roadway no matter what part of the country it traverses, perhaps because it is mostly a straight slash across the center of the nation. The highway seems to be a weird dividing line for weather; above gets snow, below does not or below sees rain, above the road none. It also seems to be an almost modern Mason-Dixon Line dividing cultures and dialects. I know this to be somewhat true in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. I am not sure if the pattern holds sway in other parts of the country. It is also quite likely the whole idea is a figment of my imagination. Anyway, from Harrisburg to Kansas City and beyond the road is boring unattractive and dull. How US 40, which covers pretty much the same exact ground can be so much more interesting is beyond me. Of course the old National Road will take you twice as long to get you where you are going.

I have the opposite view of windshield time, though this is probably because I don’t get enough of it — at least, not in a good way. (Being stuck behind dawdling members of the Anti-Destination League in the middle of the afternoon commute is not a good way.) Still, US 40 is to be preferred over I-70 at least as far west as Topeka, after which the two roads merge for most of the rest of Kansas. I admit to having less experience with the eastern stretch, which ends up in Atlantic City.

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High-rolling chicane

If you have to drive, but you really, really hate cars, this is what you’re probably driving:

That class of vehicle is the CUV, or compact utility vehicle. “Cute-ute” for short. It’s the perfect car for people who hate cars. It doesn’t handle worth a damn, being basically a short-wheelbase compact car jacked up on tall shock absorbers. It weighs a thousand pounds more than it should and usually has less interior space than one of those wacky Tercel wagons with the single reverse light from the Eighties. It costs more than the mid-size sedans with which it shares showroom space and to which it is inferior in every measure from the quarter-mile to the fuel range. It is worthless off-road and feckless on-road.

The cute-ute exists for one reason and one reason only: to let you “sit high.” It’s a clown car on stilts. If you are ever asked to name the vehicle that is the exact spiritual opposite of the Challenger Hellcat or the Lamborghini Huracán or the Mazda Miata, there’s only one answer, and the cute-ute is that answer. Their drivers are, by and large, slack-jawed pseudo-passengers whose rapt attention to their iPhones or AM radio stations is only occasionally interrupted by a Pequod-worthy swing of the helm or an ABS-squeaking random stab of the brakes. Of the last five vehicles to run my motorcycle out of a freeway lane, three of them were Honda CR-Vs.

I once coveted one of those wacky Tercel wagons, which should tell you how questionable my automotive tastes are.

That said, if I may twist up an observation by young Dashiell Robert Parr: if everybody sits up high, then nobody sits up high.


Standard government response

Warren Meyer explains it as tersely as is humanly possible:

Problem: Long waits at the DMV

Solution: Triple the size of the waiting room

And so they did:

The [Arizona] state Motor Vehicle Division office in Surprise is about to reopen following renovations that include a near-tripling of the capacity of its customer waiting area.

Arizona Department of Transportation officials say the waiting area will accommodate 188 customers, up from 68 previously.

Wait a minute. That’s it?

ADOT officials say the renovations also included upgrading the air conditioning system and restrooms.

Still, this is a good thing, considering what I had to go through, not in the 48th state, but the 46th:

Now you should know that “nearest” does not necessarily mean “near”: the only station in Oklahoma City proper is on the far southside, which meant a trip to either Yukon or Edmond. I opted for the latter, contriving to arrive 75 minutes before closing. This got me a 50-minute stay on what you’d get if they’d ordered chairs to match the Group W bench, after which I was admitted to the Inner Sanctum.

I remember paying a visit to the California DMV about 27 years ago, and it wasn’t nearly as horrible as I’d anticipated. Then again, California had maybe two-thirds its current population about 27 years ago. (If you care, it was the office in Torrance, 1785 West 220th Street, which currently has 2½ stars on Yelp.)


It’s right there on the sticker

I’ve visited actual Turkish bazaars, and they’re a lot more pleasant than shopping for cars in the States. So I applaud this tentative gesture by Lexus:

Would no-haggle car pricing make the car-buying process more pleasant, and make you feel more warm and cuddly toward car dealers and toward the brand? Lexus apparently hopes so, and they plan to test this kind of pricing at a dozen of their dealerships.

The general manager for Lexus U.S.A. announced the experiment [yesterday] at a Center for Automotive Research event. “While negotiation-free pricing is not revolutionary, we strongly believe the concept will further elevate transaction transparency and customer care,” he told his audience of people in the industry.

It helps that Lexus has already developed a (mostly) stellar reputation for customer care.

This is, of course, not new; Toyota’s #3 brand, Scion, not only offers fixed prices but allows for a whole lot of customer, um, customization. And no-haggle was at the heart of the short-lived Saturn experiment over at General Motors. Then again, Saturn is dead, and Scion sales are circling the drain, so Lexus is probably wise to limit this practice to a handful of dealers for now.

Consumerist is running a poll (see link), and the hard-bargainer types are at this writing trailing by a fairly substantial margin.

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All pink and curvy and everything

There’s a feature in the current Automobile (September) about the pink AMX awarded to Angela Dorian as part of her 1968 Playmate of the Year, um, booty. Dorian, a small-time actress under her real name — Victoria Vetri — got a small career boost from being PMOY, but careers in Hollywood tend to be shortish. (You have to wonder how things might be different had she taken the job of dubbing Natalie Wood’s voice in West Side Story earlier in the decade.) Still, she held onto the car until 2010, by which time it had been repainted several times and was in bad need of some TLC. Arguably, so was Vetri, who was charged with shooting her husband in the back. The attempted-murder charge filed against her was eventually reduced to attempted voluntary manslaughter; she pleaded no contest and was sentenced to nine years in prison.

Meanwhile, a chap named Mark Melvin happened upon the AMX at a lot in Venice Beach; he bought it and restored it, at a cost of somewhere over $50,000. There exists a Web site for the car, which also includes a recap of Vetri’s career and eventual undoing that was actually written by Robert Stacy McCain, its appearance a product of the miracle of cut-and-paste. The car, of course, now looks utterly wonderful; Vetri, now in her seventies, perhaps not so much.

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Not exactly forward progress

And if we don’t have a carless future, this is what we have to look forward to after a decade or so, says TTAC commenter DeadWeight:

I look forward to 2025, and 0.4 liter, turbocharged, CVT vehicles made of carbon-parmesan cheese bonded fibers, getting 125 mpg on the EPA loop test, and between 22 mpg and 28 mpg in the real world.

Cylinder count is not specified, but with everyone and his corporate cousins now offering 2.0-liter inline fours, suggesting a half-liter standard cylinder, I’m speculating that this is a single cylinder turned upside down, in the manner of the V-12s built by Daimler-Benz for the Luftwaffe.


Aw, ya big lug

I don’t like the idea of an utterly carless future, but I am forced to concede that never seeing anything like this again will provide one tiny sliver of consolation:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: How can I put rims with 6 lugs on a Chevrolet Tahoe that has 5 lugs on the wheel assembly?

The only thing we really want to know here is “Did he already buy the wrong wheels?”


The new Shell game

I am a consistent user of Shell V-Power gasoline, partly because this town is awash in Shell stations, but mostly because Gwendolyn seems to like it, whether or not it’s cut with a few percentage points of ethanol.

Of late, Shell is claiming a new formulation which they have dubbed “V-Power NiTRO+,” a name it’s probably too late to change. I have just enough background in chemistry to wonder just what the hell difference a shot of nitrogen is going to make to the inside of a combustion chamber. I admit, I have my tires pumped up with nitrogen, mostly because it doesn’t leak quite as quickly as ordinary four-fifths-nitrogen air, but this wouldn’t seem to be an issue with engine internals, though Shell assures me that it contains “seven times the cleaning agents required to meet federal standards [and] removes an average of 60% of harmful intake valve deposits left behind by lower quality premium gasoline.”

In other words, their premium gas is premium-er. It’s certainly priced that way. Over the years, the gap between regular and premium has grown from 20 to 26 to 32 cents; the new stuff commands a 40-cent surcharge at two stations I checked, one a chain, one an independent. “Must be really Top Tier,” I said to myself as I listened to the gas cap click.

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Angle of attack

Professional race-car driver Jack Baruth has seen plenty of this:

[T]he average American driver merges onto the freeway by looking dead straight ahead, accelerating to about ten miles per hour below the speed limit, and rolling down said merge lane until it ends, at which point he moves over without turning his head a millimeter in either direction.

Imagine how below-average American drivers must do it. I see plenty of them every day on the freeways of Oklahoma City, which have adequate capacity but which are often clogged because of said below-average drivers. One particular subgenus thereof has been on the receiving end of my wrath for at least seventeen years now:

Around here, the police call it “rubbernecking”, and you’ve seen it too: six-car pileup in the far lane, doofus driving by goes through some seriously-contorting neck-craning to get a good look at the carnage, and suddenly it’s a seven-car pileup. Needless to say, the fellows in blue are not thrilled with this sort of thing, but it’s never going to go away — it’s as American as baseball, apple pie, and the remains of a ’91 Chevy being dragged onto a tow-hook. As a people, we love it.

Which is of course untrue: we don’t love it, unless we’re doing it ourselves, as does some corksoaking icehole on I-35 north of I-40 a minimum of four days a week. Then again, traffic moving at 15 mph almost simplifies merging.

Almost. We must allow for the fact that until early in the twenty-first century, ODOT budgeted a maximum of $19.95 per onramp, and as a result the older freeway approaches are nasty, brutish and short. Few, though, are as bad as Classen to I-44 eastbound, which (1) approaches from the left and (2) does so blindly until the last possible moment. I take this every morning, every weekday morning, usually in the dark — the absolute earliest the sunrise comes in this town is 6:14 am, no thanks to DST — and whoever’s choogling along in the left lane, latte in hand, is never going to see me coming.

Reasoning that the latte-bearer is probably doing ten over, I make a practice of being fifteen over by the time the merge lane disappears into a line of Jersey barriers. This is more problematic than you think, since the approach starts on the last curve of the Classen Circle, and the first point at which oncoming traffic is visible is maybe 1.5 seconds away from the time you plow into it. I comfort myself with the thought that at 5000 rpm, I still have 1500 left. And this almost always works. But the operative word, once again, is “almost”:

I’ve seen plenty of cars just stopped dead at the end of on-ramps waiting for a thousand feet of clear space. That’s what happens when the driver simply can’t process the situation well enough to make it work any other way.

So I round the curve at 40, stretch toward the loud pedal, and as light falls upon the scene there’s someone just stopped dead, waiting for me to make his death a literal one. I have yet to plow into any of these folks, but the last time it happened there were two tailgaters trying to inhale my exhaust, and, well, it’s a damn good thing no one was around to take my blood-pressure reading.

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