Friday, August 31, 2012

A New Cup Holder for German Cars -- another contribution from Ed!

When automobile reviewers say negative things about German cars they often comment on the lack of sufficient cup holders.  BMW has now offered as an option a "big gulp" cup holder (see attached photo).  Heavy duty shocks installed on the passenger side of the car come with this option.  But, advice to all............never drink and drive   This option is not available in the states of Alabama or Georgia as it is standard equipment.  Mercedes, Audi, and Porsche have so far declined to offer this option on their vehicles

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Airflow Prototype
                                                                    MoPar at its best 

                                                                Turbine car from the 1960s 

Visitors to the Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills, Michigan, will find a fairly decent look at Chrysler's long and intriguing history.  I spent a few hours there a couple of weeks ago and, frankly, all you will need is a couple of hours as this is not a huge place nor are there as many cars or exhibits on display than I'd imagined there would be.
When one visits the museum one will meet the many faces associated with the Chrysler heritage and the brilliant engineering, marketing, and design contributions (especially those of Virgil Exner) that many individuals have made to the automotive industry.  Visitors will explore the history of the Chrysler, Jeep® and Dodge brands as well as such predecessor marques like DeSoto and Plymouth and those companies that were woven into Chrysler and now, of course, abandoned, like Hudson, Nash, and Willys-Overland.
Within minutes of entering the museum one is struck by its openness what with cars displayed in attractive environments, well lit to showcase their aesthetic beauty.  To some visitors the museum may look a bit bare compared to other places where, sadly, cars are much too crowded together.
What struck this visitor was the range of interesting artifacts available for close inspection -- from a World War II Chrysler-designed air raid siren to a "Twin-H" early 50s Hudson straight-six engine to a nice display of the "ladies accessories" that came with the famous 1955 Dodge La Femme.  And of course one could not miss the Chrysler Turbine with exhibit with an actual turbine engine that could be closely inspected.
While Chrysler's heritage has been noted at points for its luxury models, Imperials were, sadly, underrepresented, although the prime example, a 1957 Imperial Crown Southhampton, is very nice. There was one Airflow on display as well as a prototype of the 1932 Trifon that, the next year, became the Airflow.  Let's just say that the ugliness of the Trifon is only bettered by the late Pontiac Aztec. 
Other Forward Look cars (my favorite era actually) on display included a 1956 Dodge Custom Royal Lancer hardtop, a 1957 300C, a 1957 Fury, and a rare 1957 Dodge Sweptside pickup.  I just loved the fact that the Custom Royal had an after-market record player installed under the dash. Also on display was an Exner-inspired Chrysler Ghia.  Interestly, the C-pillar and rear fender rump of this showcar closely echos the same features found on the later Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia.
Color was in full array in the Museum what with some great examples of tri-tones from the 1950s and, surprisingly, a few examples from both AMC and Chrysler of late 60s and early 70s purple and lime colored autos.
Other great interactive displays included an alternator-vs.-generator comparison using a 1960 Valiant grill and headlights as part of the prop, a dashboard where one could push buttons on a Dodge push-buttom automatic tranny selector, and an example of Chrysler's "swing-away" front bucket seats.  This brought back fond memories since I owned a 1959 Plymouth Fury with swing-away seats while in college.  On a date with an ugly girl I let her off at her dorm and, like a gentleman, went around and opened the passenger door for her.  Then I told her to push the little lever on the side of the seat and, wow, the seat turned around almost ejecting her (smile).  Let's just say he was less than impressed.
Yes, there was a nod to "Lee" and the importance of his efforts to turn the company around back during the "first auto bailout."  On display was a nice early Plymouth Minivan but, sadly, there was no Horizon, Omni, or Reliant on show.  Hey, how about a concours example of a Lebaron convertible?
Many car museums these days seem to have reproductions of pioneers offices or laboratories and the Chrysler museum was no exception as the visitor could see what Walter P. Chrysler's office supposedly looked like.  Walter Chrysler always fondly looked back at his days as a machinist since he was a tool man at heart so on display are his machinist's tools and carrying case,
The museum is fairly large in size, with three floors, but it is nowhere near as large as the Henry Ford museum complex; still, it packs quite a bit in. One of the main attractions for history buffs may well be the non-automotive pieces - one of the legendary Chrysler tank engines, designed by putting five six-cylinder engines into a radial design, each with its own distributor, sharing a cooling system that included the largest radiator most people will ever see.
The basement of the museum is another trip back in time with well over 50 vehicles from all periods in what is called "Walter's Garage."  One takes an elevator down to the basement which, visually, is strikingly different than the first or second floor of the facility.  On the lower level one will find a major focus on Chrysler's racing history especially through the late 60s and early 70s period.
All in all, this is an outstanding automotive museum and well worth the visit.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

An academic question: How did the coming of the Automobile change Americans' Thinking? -- a quote from Edison

Hi folks -- I picked up an interesting book at the Goodwill this evening -- Arthur Pound, The Turning Wheel: The Story of General Motors Through Twenty-Five Years 1908-1933 (New York, Doubleday, 1934).  Thin about this Edison quote, p. 287:

"...the automobile has done more to make America a nation of thinkers than any other invention or agency.  The great value of the  automobile is not the fact that it has made easier and quicker and cheaper to go places, but the fact that it has inspired several million people to go. It has revealed to them how petty and meaningless their lives were becoming...Most of us view the automobile principally as a great business and manufacturing achievement. It is -- but it is a greater educational achievement.  In the beginning we were a pioneer people -- a restless people.  But when things came easier for us we began to lose our restlessness. The automobile is helping to restore it.  And that is one of the most healthful signs of the present generation.  Restlessness is discontent -- and discontent is the first necessity of progress, Show me a thoroughly satisfied man -- and I will show you a failure.  The wheels of progress -- especially those of the automobile -- have worked results which may be called miracles. But their service has been to raise the thinking capacity of society.

Pink Porsches!

 A mid-1970s Porsche 911 with cookie cutter wheels
 A 997 from Dubai
 A China Porsche Boxter
 Mariah Carey's Pink Cayenne
OK folks -- it seems my most viewed posts somehow have photos of pink cars!  And since I am big into getting more people interested in auto history and the Automobile and American Life, here are some pink Porsches for your viewing pleasure. But don't think for a minute that I will repaint my Irish Green 1971 Porsche 911 targa pink!

The first Miss Hurst Golden Shifter -- Perky Patty Flannery

Hi folks -- The Dayton, OH area has plenty of local auto history, and there are times I manage to miss big moments in reliving it. On Saturday night at Kil-Kare Dragway there was time to meet and listen to the first Miss Hurst Golden Shifter, "Perky Patty."  Tom Archdeacon of the Dayton Daily News, who does a great job of writing human interest stories and who is a real local treasure in his own right, put it all together in a n article published this morning in the DDN.

Patty, a farm girl who would drive around tracks like Indy, Bristol, Riverside, and up Pikes Peak and across the Bonneville Salt flats, had her moments of glory before being replaced by two other young ladies, the most prominent of whom was Linda Vaughn, written up in another blog post.

Pat, one of two women named in the 1965 Car and Driver list of the top 25 racing personalities, has hit some tough times with broken relationships and health issues, is now 73 and owns a quarter horse business in South Vienna, OH. A 1957 graduate of Northeastern High School and then an employee at Mefford Ford in Springfield, she began her promotional career as Miss ARCA and then with Hurst.

Archdeacon's article is an excellent introduction to Patty's life, but as a historian I sure would like to take a look at her Scrapbook! And after all the trials, Archdeacon has concluded that "she still has it."

Friday, August 24, 2012

Cruise-In, Beavercreek, OH, August24, 2012: a Nice Pre-war Packard Convertible and a 1958 Alfa

Hi folks -- my draft manuscript of Stealing Cars is almost ready to be mailed off to Johns Hopkins Press and I will soon be more active in posting material again. Tonight I went to the weekly cruise-in held near the intersection of I-675 and U.S. 35, and found a few favorites.  The weather was super and attendance excellent, and there were a number of cars that piqued my interest.  One was a Pre-WWII Packard convertible -- if I had the money I would love to have one of these! The other is a battered but original 1958 Alfa-Romero Spider. This car looks like nothing much has been done to it since 1958 except change the oil and fill it with gas! But another car I would love to own.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Cruisin' the Grand: Escondido, CA, August 10, 2012

H folks -- Friday night in Escondido, visiting Lisa and Tony for a few short hours. The downtown cruise-in is always a treat, even on an extra warm evening.  The top photos are of a 1956 Plymouth Fury, and you can tell the fins are getting bigger as designer Virgil Exner's influence at Chrysler was on the rise.  Note the 45 rpm record player, an option that year and extremely rare.  The other car featured is a 1953 Glaspar,  a very rare and remarkable vehicle of the period.  I had never seen one until last night.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Think Pink: Some Pink Cars that Mary Kay folks should consider instead of the Cadillac!

 Paris Hilton behind the wheel of her Bentley
 Nissan Micra

Hi folks -- Mary Kay employees are to be honored for their initiative, get-up-and-go, and hard work.  The end game is a Cadillac, I guess, but here are some other pink cars worthy of your attention. Note how a subtle shift in shade makes all the difference in the world in terms of how hard these cars are to your eyes.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Top Five Vehicles for Bachelors Wanting to Attract the Right Girl

Frankly, I think the notion of a car as bait to attract the right girl is highly over-rated.  But thanks to a conversation I had last night with fellow tennis player and marketing Guru "Stevie Wonder" Sunshine, what follows are ten cars guaranteed to improve your chances to attract the right woman.  Note that there is no one type of vehicle  guaranteed to create a magic mojo, just as there are no one type of woman. And just because you strike an emotional cord with your wheels, doesn't mean there is a substitute for looks and personality. In the film American Graffiti Toad gets to drive Steve's "hot" 1958 Chevy Impala, but Toad's appearance and geekiness can't be taken away from him no matter he has for wheels. In some cases, the best thing you can do is go to the gym.

1. BMW 650i convertible. My 5 Seasons friend Bill Palmer has one of these and I still don't see the women flocking around him! The 650i is one of the most magnificent cars on the market today, and it will attract a refined middle aged women who has good taste and knows how to spend money on the finer things of life. You will attract a woman who not only looks at the luxury articles advertised in the first section of The New York Times, but buys them. Take he on a winding road at sunset, top down, playing Pavarotti, and you may win a true friend.

2. Toyota Prius.  So you don't have 108k to spend on a BMW. The Prius will attract the Eco-friendly woman who wears Birkenstocks and lives in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Unless you are an Obama/Biden supporter, a true believer of Global Warming and Climate Change, and totally against human trafficking, you should be wary of taking this route.  A double-minded man who secretly desires high performance and clean lines need not apply here. And these women often prove to be quite unstable.

3. Cadillac Escalade.   Women attracted to the BMW tend to be more sophisticated, refined and cultured, with broader philosophical outlooks. Those who like the Escalade are more grasping, crude, and materialistic without thinking carefully about what they want. An Escalade women shops at Macy's; a BMW 650i woman goes to Von Maurer (Patricia D.?) or Bloomingdales.  These Escalade types are very irritating -- so if you want to attract one, God Bless you, because you will need it. They wear Jewelry that is without true distinction, read trashy novels, and generally have poor manners. People who drive these vehicles are generally jack-asses, and jack-asses of either gender tend to attract each other, subsequently breeding small jack-asses that torment fellow children at school

4. Ford F-150 Lariat.  This is the vehicle for those who want to attract the nesting type of woman.  She is looking for a handy-Andy who will spend weekends going to Home Deport and bringing back paint, drywall, and lumber. You must like Country music, TV, guns, and preferably attend a Baptist Church. Need I say more?

5. Volvo S-60.  This is a good car if you wish to attract a professional women who is either an accountant or scientist. It is luxurious enough to impress them with your ability to be a good provider. Yet, with the T-5 engine it has enough power to vent aggressive tendencies after a day working with Dilbert in a corporate setting.  A steady and reliable car that says you are comfortable with your middle class values and work ethic, and do not need to impress those around you with flash. A very safe car,that projects a safe person.