Saturday, January 28, 2017

Mary Tyler Moore Show: Mary Richards Buys a 1972 Mustang

Thanks to Ed for suggesting this supplement to a recent post!

Friday, January 27, 2017

1970 at Le Mans -- fast lap in a Porsche 917

Le Mans, France. June 11, 1970. Training: The day is hot and humid, as was the day before. But now cooler air from the Atlantic is streaming in – a boon to the air-cooled, 4.9-liter engine in Kurt Ahrens’s Porsche 917. The thirty-year-old German race-car driver shares this long-tail car with Englishman Vic Elford. But for now the Braunschweig native is making his preparations in the cockpit. His goal is to take the pole position.
The heart of the renowned Circuit de la Sarthe – then 13.469 kilometers long  – is the legendary Mulsanne straight, which at the time was untroubled by even the slightest chicane. It was a 6-kilometer slash through the landscape  – a straightaway made for the 400 km/h barrier, says Ahrens. He feels no fear. Ahrens never feels nervous in the 917, as long as the tires last north of 350 km/h. Tires have been known to part ways with their treads at such speeds. Ahrens goes for it anyway. The clock stops at 3:19.08. Three seconds faster than the pole sitter the year before. Ahrens and Elford are at the front of the pack.
Le Mans 1970, the race
Eight Porsche 917s head into the fray against eleven Ferrari 512s. Porsche wants its first overall victory at Le Mans. Badly. And the car driven by Elford/Ahrens with starting number 25 is the lure, the pacesetter that runs off the front and wears down the red racers from Maranello. From the start, they push it to the limit. “We knew from the get-go that we wouldn’t be able to finish the race at that pace,” says Ahrens. For a long time, his 917 holds the lead. The expected breakdown comes unexpectedly late: “On Sunday morning at 8:35, after 226 laps, an intake valve came off. Just as I had shifted from second into third before the pits.” Race over, mission accomplished. In the end, their teammates Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood bolt out of the blue from the middle of the pack to secure the first Le Mans victory for Porsche.

Mary Tyler Moore and Her Cars -- a Contribution from Ed Garten


The world mourns the passing of Mary Tyler Moore this week, an actress who changed the face of sitcom TV in the early to mid 70s.  More than a few young (and old) men fell in love with Mary during those television years and this writer, himself, had to wipe away a couple of tears.  

Given that the MTM Show was mostly shot in her apartment or in the fictional Minneapolis TV studio where she worked, there were few opportunities for "car spotting" or "product placements."  However, many of us did admire Mary's two cars (yes, two cars).  During the opening couple of seasons Mary was spotted getting out of a white 1970 Mustang coupe and the car was spotted in front of the house in which Mary lived in an upstairs apartment.   And of course in the opening sequence during the first few years Mary is seen driving into "the big city" as a 30 year old who has just left a bad relationship for new opportunities on her own.   But Mary got another Mustang in Season Three when she visited a Minneapolis Ford dealership, first looking at a green 1973 Mustang convertible and then finally deciding on a yellow '73 convertible (in spite of admitting she didn't much care for yellow).  In that episode Mary sort of rolls her eyes when she looks at the Monroney sticker hanging from the side of the yellow Mustang but buys it anyway.  You go girl.  RIP Mary Tyler Moore.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Visit with Ed Crowder, one of the "Geezers" from Kil-Kare Dragway

Hi folks -- spent some time with Mr. Ed Crowder today at his garage located in Beavercreek, Ohio. Ed has taken a leadership role in bringing together the "Geezers" who raced at Kil-Kare beginning in 1959.  He just turned 80 and has a wealth of knowledge about drag racing during a Golden Age in the sport's history. A collector of many things, Ed has a few interesting cars in his garage, inkling a 1960 Cadillac mild custom and a 1956 Cadillac.  In addition many historic photographs, the walls of his garage feature ephemera that tell us much about a time in history when the automobile was at the center of American culture.

Ed at 80! 

One of Ed's cars, a 1956 Cadillac. He and drive this to the annual cruise-in held in Charleston, West Virginia.

20th Century Automobility in Hinton, West Virginia

Hi folks, Ed Garten dug these photos up from the West Virginia University Archives.  I had problems positioning the photos chronologically -- my apologies. 

Rambler Dealership, Hinton, W. Va. An automobile pulls into the dealership driveway located on Summers Street, between Second and Third Avenues. On the side of the building reads, "Good Used Cars." Note the Oldsmobile dealership sign left of drive opening, and a 1959 Oldsmobile in the showroom.
1957 Fords lined up at Garten Motors, Hinton, West Virginia. Ford outsold Chevrolet in 1957, perhaps no surprise from this photo.

Summers Junk Yard, Monongalia County, W. Va., 1958? What a mess!

"Toots" Rogers and Family, Hinton, W. Va. Don't mess with people from Hinton!

First Automobile with its First Passengers in Hinton, W. Va.
The first car ever purchased in the city was a two-cylinder Brush. John Lang, weighing 380 lbs., is pictured in the forefront. His associates are unidentified, 1904.  Is it Lang or Laing? (see window).

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Taking A Porsche on a Ride in Namibia

A gemsbok—or oryx, the national animal of Namibia—suddenly bounds across the road. It turns its head with an inquisitive look and disappears just as quickly behind an enormous rock formation. The evening sun lends the stone a golden glow, and the wind plays with a few grains of sand. It is the perfect place for Hans-Joachim Baumgartl (54). It’s exactly how he pictured Namibia. A German physician from Landsberg am Lech, he planned to take a motorcycle tour of the country some twenty years ago. But as so often happens in life, studies, a family, and work intervened. Now he is here at last and fulfilling his dream—albeit on four wheels instead of two—on a trip with the Porsche Travel Club.  

The Cayenne S flies over the dirt road. Dust swirls around the SUV’s tires, leaving a long trail floating in its wake. Geologists estimate that this expanse of rocky debris on the far side of Swakopmund is eighty million years old—one of the oldest deserts in the world. The radio crackles. Guide Frik Orban (48) alerts the group to another oryx on the side of the road. The Cayenne and its five companions slow down and come to a stop. Baumgartl pulls out his binoculars and brings the animal into focus. He remains fascinated for quite some time.
Perfect organization, small group, fine accommodations

“I can hardly imagine a greater contrast to my work,” he says. As his eyes gaze out over the distance, he is finding new energy, perspective, and peace of mind in Namibia. Baumgartl is impressed by the perfect organization of this trip, the small group, the fine accommodations—and the comfortable SUVs. “The most beautiful thing is the friendliness of the people—along with the landscape, which is spectacular,” he adds. This trip to Africa will surely not be his last. That much is certain.

The Cayenne S in Namibia
Namibia is more than twice the size of Japan, and you could fit about twenty Switzerlands within its borders. Only around 2.3 million people live in this country of nearly 320,000 square miles. But it is also home to over two hundred species of mammals, 645 species of birds, and numerous species of reptiles and amphibians. Not even one-fifth of its roads are paved. The dirt tracks start just a couple of miles outside the capital city of Windhoek—and with them the adventures. Bushes cling to the ground around an occasional acacia or lush, green mopani tree. Otherwise, all you can see is sand, sand, and more sand.
Porsche Adventure Tour: A dream come true for friends of Africa

The Porsche Adventure Tour of Namibia includes the sand dunes of Sossusvlei, which can reach heights of 1,250 feet, the Namib-Naukluft National Park, Swakopmund and Damaraland, Twyfelfontein, and the Etosha Pan, a salt pan with an extensive array of wildlife. It is a dream come true for friends of Africa and animal lovers. “Compared to other African countries, Namibia has far more open space, as well as greater security,” says Orban. Vast expanses and animals in their natural habitat—that was exactly what Gudrun Schmer from Wuppertal-Sudberg was looking for. A fan of Africa, she and her husband are traveling in the southern part of the continent for the first time. Having previously arranged all of their trips on their own, the structured tour marks yet another first for the couple.

“This time we wanted to go on an organized safari, do some serious photography, see a lot of animals and as much natural scenery as possible,” she says. So the couple decided on a trip with the Travel Club. After all, they’ve both been driving Porsches for over thirty years. “It’s very practical that everything is perfectly planned,” she adds, “yet it also has character.” That character includes not only the well-stocked cooler in the Cayenne, but also the unique lodges. They offer both comfortable tents, with open-air showers and a view of the horizon, and traditionally styled round huts for camping. In the afternoon, a gentle desert breeze blows across the sprawling grasslands. The veranda of the Ongava Lodge in the southern part of the Etosha Pan is an inviting place to have a drink and observe wildlife.

On vacation with the Porsche Travel Club

Etosha means “great white place,” and indeed its salt pan measures around 1,850 square miles. Its inhabitants include more than 1,500 elephants, 300 lions, 400 cheetahs, 3,000 giraffes, and a few rhinos and leopards. The pan is usually dry, filling only occasionally after heavy rains. Then the animals are regular fixtures at its sixty watering holes. That’s when the gemsboks, kudus, gnus, impalas, and elands appear. Two herds of zebras stroll across the road: first the plains species, then their Hartmann’s mountain cousins. “You can tell them apart by the stripes on their legs,” explains Orban on the radio. The stripes serve as camouflage, and it’s hard to spot the animals in the shimmering heat.

A couple of miles later, a cheetah has just ripped apart an oryx. Her young offspring eat while she stands guard. The cycle of life—birth and death. Nearly two dozen vultures circle in the sky, waiting for the leftovers. Gudrun Schmer is awed by this display of nature. She and her husband both want to take another vacation with the Porsche Travel Club. In fact, they’ve already chosen their next destination. As a counterpoint to Africa, they’ll be taking a drift seminar in Finland—on ice

Car Colors -- Popular and Not

Trends in car colors are a very big research matter for manufacturers from year to year going back to the 1930s when General Motors put significant resources in researching consumer preferences. Among the big questions are ones of what are the "hot" colors.

Psychologists have asserted that the colors of our vehicles tell much about the owners. Supposedly, cars are usually painted in bright colors and primary tones like yellows, light blues and reds during economic boom times. On the other hand, when the economy cools, so do the colors to include gray, brown, and dark blue. On one website the following is listed about colors and who you are:
            Black:  First choice of ambitious drivers who want to project an image of success.
            Red:  You’re outgoing and impulsive with a youthful attitude, but easily bored.
            Silver:  You have great style and are often successful, but tend to be pompous.
            White:  The first choice of doctors and drivers who are reliable and methodical.
            Gray:  Expresses understated good taste and indicates a safe, cautious driver.
            Blue:  A team player who’s sociable and friendly, yet lacks imagination.9

Below are British Preferences: U.S. data is slightly different!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The American Automobile Industry on the Eve of World War I

1916 Apperson Touring Car 
American Automobile Co.  Kokomo, In.

1916 Saxon Roadster
Saxon Mfg. Co., Detroit, Mi.
Hi folks -- I am starting a study of the American auto industry during WWII and found a source that summarized the state of things at the end of 1916.

Source:  Speech of Hon. Patrick H. Kelley of Michigan in the House of Representatives, Monday, May 21, 1917.  At the University of Michigan Library.

Kelley was responding to an initiative to place a 5% tax on various commodities, including automobiles. Undoubtedly a tax to help fund WWI costs.

In 1916:

1.525,578 cars were made, valued at $921,378,000 with an average price of $605.

There were 3.5 million licensed cars and trucks, 1 for every 29 persons.

92,120 motor trucks were made at an average price of $1.809.

Furthermore, there were 
25,924 dealers
23,686 garages
12,171 auto machine shops
231 auto manufacturers
800 auto parts companies

The heart of the industry was located in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and to a lesser  extent Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Farm states had a large number of dealers: California, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. 

1914 Dodge

1914 Packard Moving Van

1916 Studebaker Speedster

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Hydrogen Highway?

The next generation Mercedes-Benz fuel cell electric vehicle: Mercedes-Benz GLC F-CELL prototype. Not only can the GLC F-CELL be refuelled with hydrogen in under three minutes at an appropriate filling station: convenient external charging of its high-voltage battery is also possible.
Davos, Switzerland – 17th January 2017Thirteen leading energy, transport and industry companies have today launched a global initiative to voice a united vision and long-term ambition for hydrogen to foster the energy transition.
In the first global initiative of its kind, the ‘Hydrogen Council’ is determined to position hydrogen among the key solutions of the energy transition. Hydrogen is a versatile energy carrier with favourable characteristics since it does not release any CO2 at the point of use as a clean fuel or energy source, and can play an important role in the transition to a clean, low-carbon, energy system. Hydrogen technologies and products have significantly progressed over past years and are now being introduced to the market. The Council will work with, and provide recommendations to, a number of key stakeholders such as policy makers, business and hydrogen players, international agencies and civil society to achieve these goals.
During the launch, members of the ‘Hydrogen Council’ confirmed their ambition to accelerate their significant investment in the development and commercialization of the hydrogen and fuel cell sectors. These investments currently amount to an estimated total value of €1.4 Bn/year1. This acceleration will be possible if the key stakeholders increase their backing of hydrogen as part of the future energy mix with appropriate policies and supporting schemes.
Meeting in Davos for the first time on Tuesday, the ‘Hydrogen Council’ is currently made up of 13 CEOs and Chairpersons from various industries and energy companies committed to help achieve the ambitious goal of reaching the 2 degrees Celsius target as agreed in the 2015 Paris Agreement. The international companies currently involved are: Air Liquide, Alstom, Anglo American, BMW GROUP, Daimler, ENGIE, Honda, Hyundai Motor, Kawasaki, Royal Dutch Shell, The Linde Group, Total and Toyota. The Council is led by two Co-Chairs from different geographies and sectors, currently represented by Air Liquide and Toyota.
“The 2015 Paris Agreement to combat climate change is a significant step in the right direction but requires business action to be taken to make such a pledge a reality. The Hydrogen Council brings together some of the world’s leading industrial, automotive and energy companies with a clear ambition to explain why hydrogen emerges among the key solutions for the energy transition, in the mobility as well as in the power, industrial and residential sectors, and therefore requires the development of new strategies at a scale to support this. But we cannot do it alone. We need governments to back hydrogen with actions of their own – for example through large-scale infrastructure investment schemes. Our call today to world leaders is to commit to hydrogen so that together we can meet our shared climate ambitions and give further traction to the emerging Hydrogen ecosystem.” Beno├«t Potier, CEO, Air Liquide.
"The Hydrogen Council will exhibit responsible leadership in showcasing hydrogen technology and its benefits to the world. It will seek collaboration, cooperation and understanding from governments, industry and most importantly, the public. At Toyota, we have always tried to play a leading role in environmental and technological advances in the automotive industry, including through the introduction of fuel cell vehicles. Moreover, we know that in addition to transportation, hydrogen has the potential to support our transition to a low carbon society across multiple industries and the entire value chain. The Hydrogen Council aims to actively encourage this transition.” Takeshi Uchiyamada, Chairman, Toyota.
“Zero emission technologies are an integral part of Daimler's powertrain strategy. Besides plug-in-hybrids and vehicles equipped with 48-volt-systems our portfolio will feature more than ten fully electric vehicles in the passenger car segment alone by 2025. Fuel cell technology has a huge potential for the energy and mobility sector. The benefits for us are obvious: a long operating range and short refuelling stops as well as a broad spectrum of possible uses ranging from passenger cars to urban buses. We strongly continue to pursue our goal of bringing the next generation fuel cell electric vehicles on the market. We will unveil the Mercedes-Benz GLC F-CELL already this year”. Jochen Hermann, Vice President Electrics/Electronics & E-Drive Development at Daimler AG.
A report entitled ‘How Hydrogen empowers the energy transition2 ’- commissioned by the Hydrogen Council - further details this future potential that hydrogen is ready to provide, and sets out the vision of the Council and the key actions it considers fundamental for policy makers to implement, to fully unlock and empower the contribution of hydrogen to the energy transition.
As global companies from major energy and industrial sectors, it is part of the corporate responsibility to provide solutions to manage the energy transition and move forward to a low-carbon, sustainable economy: joint action is required to tackle this formidable challenge. This is why we invite governments and key society stakeholders to also acknowledge the contribution of hydrogen to the energy transition and to work with us to create an effective implementation plan.
The members of the Hydrogen Council collectively represent total revenues of € 1.07 trillion and 1.72 million employees around the world3.
1 How Hydrogen empowers the energy transition, Report, 2017, Hydrogen Council
3 Company figures from financial years 2015 and 2016
Hydrogen is a versatile, clean, and safe energy carrier that can be used as fuel for power or in industry as feedstock, as well as it can be easily stored on large scale. Hydrogen Council members are committed to promoting its deployment. Hydrogen can be produced from (renewable) electricity and from carbon-abated fossil fuels and produces zero emissions at point of use. The uses for hydrogen continue to grow as it can be stored and transported at high energy density in liquid or gaseous form and can be combusted or used in fuel cells to generate heat and electricity. This versatility confers to hydrogen a key enabling role in the transport, industry and residential sectors, as well as for the large-scale storage of renewable intermittent energies, making it a promising solution to overcome the challenges of the energy transition.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

One Downside to Autonomous or Self-Driving Cars? Terrorism?

Hi folks -- I started looking at the history of self driving cars yesterday.  And it is a complex history going back to the 1920s when the first self driving cars were radio controlled. Of course, those early efforts were really remote controlled by an operator following the vehicle.  And as it turns out some of that technology goes back to developments that took place in the early 1920s at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (then McCook Field).  The technology had its early roots, then, with the evolution of the aviation autopilot.

So much of more recent developments have a connection with DARPA and national defense initiatives. It is the idea of a robot car, a driverless car that one would employ on the battlefield. My big question related to the autonomous car is this:  what would keep terrorists from using them to pilot car bombs? Maybe this is all obvious to those involved in the development of the technology, but since I am a slow learner, I just thought of this and wonder.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Donald, stop meddling in the workings of the Global Auto Industry!

Ed Garten sent me this note on Monday morning: 

Perhaps automotive historian Dr. John Heitmann should give President Donald Trump a phone call and explain the auto industry to him?

BEIJING — In his latest criticism of what he sees as unfair trade, Donald J. Trump has taken aim at German cars. Why, the president-elect asked a German newspaper, do so many well-heeled drivers in New York drive a Mercedes-Benz, while Germans buy so few Chevrolets?

The last time I was in Leipzig, Germany (summer, 2015), I passed by the Chevrolet dealer quite often as it was close to the Brat and Thuringer sausage  shack where I often got my lunch. The Chevy dealer was about the loneliest place on the planet. Or at least in Eastern Germany, where there are plenty of lonely places!

The problem is that cars still have meaning for many of the people who drive them.  And my sense is that many Germans want to buy German cars.  Nothing wrong with that, considering that until recently GM did not stand for quality. Now GM could market their cars under the Opel brand, which would result in some German sales. Let's face it, GM is a faceless corporation that squashed SAAB, a proud European make.  Why let them get away with that in Germany, anyway?

Mercedes stands for excellence and accomplishment -- that is why Americans like to drive cars with the three pointed star -- along with the idea that they are nice cars.  The Bow-Tie on the grill to me stands for "average," not excellent or achieving!  You want to be average -- in looks, mental capabilities, earning power or potential, or anything else?

Do hot and desirable women drive Chevys or Mercedes and BMWs? At least in your mind?

Trump, coming from a German background (not Swiss, as he would like us to think), should know that you can't tell a German anything without some push-back. So he is going to dictate the global auto industry?  Maybe here and there, but he won't last for long doing that. It is like pissing in the wind, and we know want that leads to!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Porsche 911 GT3 R at Bathhurst, 12 Hour, Australia, February 5, 2017


The race car equipped with the ultra-modern, four-litre, flat-six engine featuring direct fuel injection is campaigned by the Australian Walkinshaw GT3 squad with factory-backing from Porsche Motorsport. In addition, other customer teams field Porsche vehicles on the 6.213-kilometre Mount Panorama Circuit. The Bathurst 12 Hour is one of the most spectacular sports car races and marks the start of the Intercontinental GT Challenge season.
The Mount Panorama Circuit, located in a picturesque region about three hours drive inland from Sydney, is a public road for most of the year. The challenging racetrack in the foothills of the Blue Mountains features 23 corners with a 174-metre vertical difference between the highest and lowest point. The steepest grade is 16 percent. One of the peculiarities of the world famous 12-hour classic in the state of New South Wales is that the start takes place in the dark at 5.45 in the morning.

911 GT3 R celebrated many successes in international racing series

The 911 GT3 R was designed by Porsche for worldwide GT3 series on the basis of the 911 GT3 RS production sports car. The vehicle is characterised by uncompromising lightweight design, better aerodynamic efficiency, lower fuel consumption and improved driveability. Already in its 2016 maiden season, the 911 GT3 R celebrated many successes in international racing series, for example in the IMSA SportsCar Championship, the World Challenge, the ADAC GT Masters as well as the VLN Long Distance Championship N├╝rburgring on the demanding Nordschleife.