Rants

Top 25 Cars of the past 25 years that made a difference - of some sort

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

Celebrating its 25th anniversary, USA TODAY has been releasing top 25 lists each week of everything from biggest public meltdowns to top TV moments to most memorable quotes. In this week’s edition, the news giant revealed its list of 25 cars that made a difference.

The Top 10: 1992 Toyota Camry; 1991 Ford Explorer; 2001 Toyota Prius; 1984 Chrysler minivans; 1986 Hyundai Excel; 1986 Ford Taurus; 1990 Lexus LS 400; 1990 Mazda Miata; 1986 Acura Legend and 1996 Toyota RAV4. For a complete list, visit http://www.usatoday.com/news/top25-vehicles.htm.

The latest in tacky car accessories

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

Just when you thought it was safe to venture back out onto the city streets without fear of being accosted by such automotive atrocities as:

Spinner hubcaps:
spinnyhubcap.jpg

or Truck Nutz:
trucknutz.jpg

All of a sudden there’s a new player in town to sap the remaining class and dignity out of your ride. Enter RhineStripes and RhineFlames from the minds of LA Stones FX. Here are some examples of these - ummm…. products.

la_stones.jpg

la_stones_lambo.jpg

That last one was especially disturbing to me, since it’s a Lamborghini Countach. It looks like whoever owns that car lost a bet to a crazy cat lady with a Bedazzler. There is no sane person who pays $300,000 for a Lamborghini Countach and then sticks rhinestone pinstripes on it.

Thanks to Zach for sending the link to me!

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The green oil rush?

Monday, June 25th, 2007

It’s weird to think about Texas oil men type guys getting all excited about biofuels, but according to this article, that’s exactly what’s happening.

I lean a bit more politically left than most of the people who enjoy my hobby, but I’m practical enough to realize that what will drive the impending (in my opinion) biofuel revolution will be capitalism. Capitalism is the reason Rudolf Diesel’s namesake engine runs on diesel fuel, as opposed to the peanut oil he envisioned.

I have no problem with venture capitalists, or “wildcatters”, when it comes to advancing this technology. Personally, big oil companies would do a lot in my eyes to get involved in non-carbon-emitting technologies sooner rather than when they are forced by the government or the market.

First one to algae based biodiesel available at the pump wins!

–Will

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I’m coming, Elizabeth!

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

sanford.jpg

I just had a Fred Sanford-like reaction to an article I read.

According to the BBC, Nissan executives have declined bonuses due to falling profits this year.

You see, people? This is why Carlos Ghosn will someday be running the world. Integrity, hard data, and accountability seem to be foreign concepts to most automotive executives except this guy and maybe Bob Lutz.

Holy executive accountability, Batman!

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Google hooks up those who develop hybrid cars

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

According to USA Today, Google is pledging $10 million to people or technologies to those who show promise in bringing plug-in hybrid automobiles to market.

Not to sound crass, because it’s not like I have $10 million laying around to give to someone, but whoopdee-farking-do. Ten million doesn’t buy a whole lot of car manufacturing facilities.

This reminds me of a story from my navy days. We’d just gotten a new division officer, Lt. McNeese, who was obviously in charge of his first thing ever. On an aircraft carrier, officers eat in the different (and most likely better) mess/galley/line of food/etc. On his first night in charge, he went to go eat, and came back with a 8 oz paper cup full of cashews. He walked into the room where we sat around most of the time, set them on a workbench, and said “For the troops!”. He’d gone out of his way to bring us eight friggin ounces of cashews to split among twenty of us.

Um, thanks….

–Will

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A business trip to Atlanta: part two

Thursday, June 14th, 2007

Well, my meeting in Atlanta went OK. Afterwards, we got in out in time to hopefully avoid Atlanta traffic, which I think is impossible. We left at 2:30 PM and sat in Atlanta traffic for 15 minutes or so. I don’t understand how folks down there don’t go completely postal having to sit in that all the time. On top of that, by the time we got to Chattanooga, there was a wreck that completely closed the freeway in the direction we needed to go. Getting around that was quite fun, and added another 30 minutes to our trip.

Our Lexus somehow became infested with ants, so the drive home wasn’t as nice as the drive down. I still think I have ants in my hair and underwear. I swear I can feel them crawling on me still. In the end I was very happy to get back to Nashville yesterday afternoon and jump into my 30 year old truck.

A couple quick notes:

  • Why are all the KOA campgrounds next to the freeway? That seems to me like going on vacation in the parking lot outside your office. Nothing like getting away from it all.
  • It seems that AC/DC’s Back in Black is the song that gets everyone in the car grooving. Hard to go wrong with that song when it comes on. Maybe next time I need to being a CD, since radio reception sucks for most of that trip.
  • Office roomie, who has infant triplets and therefore hasn’t had three hours of continuous sleep in ages, was riding shotgun and actually fell asleep mid-channel change while trying to find something on the radio.

–Will

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A business trip to Atlanta

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

As I’m writing this, it’s 4:30 in the morning and I’m in Atlanta for a business meeting.

For some reason, I assumed the hotel would have internet service to each room, but apparently that’s not the case. My consolation is that there’s a jacuzzi tub in my room (that seems excessive to use, given Atlanta’s current drought conditions), a separate living room, and two TVs. There’s even a network cable coming out of the wall here on the desk where I have my laptop set up. That’s right - a desk, a network cable, two televisions, a jacuzzi tub, and no internet access. Apparently they were all booked up yesterday afternoon, so they couldn’t switch me to a room with internet access. Sheesh! Honestly, I think I could have functioned better without TV than without internet access. What does that say about us nowadays? Suddenly the idea of internet access in your car doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.

At least I did get to make the four hour drive from Nashville to Atlanta in a nice Lexus GS300 company car. It’s a pretty nice ride, and I suppose I can look forward to sitting in rush hour Atlanta traffic in it when I head home this afternoon.

Sorry for the rant, folks. I do feel better now, after typing my frustration away. Hopefully I can get this posted up sometime later today.

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Thank God this commercial is dead.

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

Seems like car and truck commercials generate one of three feelings for me: 1.) Laughter, 2.) Apathy (if apathy can be a feeling, which is really its own discussion), and 3.) Disgust.

The Chevy truck commercials with John Mellencamp singing “This is our country” never failed to bring out a solid number 3. I wonder if that dude lost a divorce settlement or something. I’ve never heard him sound more soulless. It’s like he’s trying to sound like something else.

This is arrrrr kuuuun tray

Add the crappy song to a pandering, quasi-political, film-school-wannabe, piece of junk like the stuff below, and voila! America’s crappiest commercial ever. Don’t take my word for it. Take a look below and form your own opinion.

One of the versions of the commercial:

These commercial spawned a few million parodies, among them these two:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nv1vZG0zdhg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPNMERRPuHw

I’m incredibly happy these commercials finally got killed off.

–Will

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You will never know, dude

Wednesday, June 6th, 2007

I saw an article on Ask Yahoo that made me think for a minute. Some guy named Nick from Mobile, Alabama asked what was so special about the ‘57 Chevy?

57chevy.jpg

Yahoo tried to answer Nick’s question; but you can explain that about as well as how you know you’re in love. The answer is very similar to both questions. You just know when you’re in love, and you just know a ‘57 Chevy is a special car.

Nick, if you’re out there, here’s some advice: If you’ve ever seen a ‘57 Chevy in person and didn’t get a feeling that it was more than your average commuter, please stick to your Accord, Camry, Taurus, or whatever it is you drive. You will never know, dude.

–Will

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Ooops!

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s been a nationwide ad campaign over the past week or so from the National Highway Traffic Safetly Administration (NHSTA) called “Click it or Ticket“. Aside from having an incredibly annoying name, the campaign is meant to raise awareness of nationwide seat belt laws. The president, however, must not have gotten wind of the catchy campaign, as he’s captured here on video driving while clearly not wearing his seat belt. Oops!

This during the national NHSTA push, and also just six weeks after New Jersey governor Jon Corzine was nearly killed in an automobile accident while not wearing his seat belt. Here’s a link (1:07 wmv) to Governor Corzine’s PSA urging folks to be sure to wear their seat belts.

–Will

Ben Stein gives his opinion of the American auto industry

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

I never would have figured Ben Stein to be a car guy, but apparently that’s the case. Mr. Stein, known for being brainy, slightly nerdy, and often very dryly humorous, wrote an article for the New York Times about the American auto industry. Here’s an excerpt from his article, titled The Dream That Once Was Detroit:

I AM an American, and therefore I love cars. I am an American and, in America, you are what you drive, and here are some memories.

This is the only dream I remember from all of high school: Instead of my light blue, miserable 1955 Chevrolet, I had a white 1962 Corvette like the one my pal Calvin Kline (not the designer) had, and Gay Patlen, my high school dream girl, kissed me on the lips (in the dream). You are what you drive. Even in your dreams.

I like this guy. Click here to read the rest of the article.

–Will

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Dude, you bought a girl car?

Tuesday, May 15th, 2007

Disclaimer:

Please note that we here at AutomotiveBlogger.net are not recommending cars for girls, nor are we recommending men don’t buy the following cars. This blog is written in the United States of America, and for the time being we are all free to buy whichever car we wish. If I happen to name the car that’s in your driveway and you suddenly feel insulted, well, lighten up, Francis. My aim with this post not to insult, but rather it is to point out that at some point after buying one of the cars on this list that you will most likely hear a comment about your car being a “girl car”. If you’re a “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” kind of person then not only do you have my admiration and respect, but you are also free to read on, Admiral Farragut. If you are not and you buy one of the cars on this list, then don’t say I didn’t warn you.

5.) Mazda Miata

96miata.jpg

When the Mazda Miata was introduced in 1989 as a 1990 model, it was meant to herald the second coming of convertible sports cars that were small, handled great, and were sparse on conveniences. Sports car guys were giddy, especially the editors at car magazines like Car and Driver and Road and Track, who saw the Miata as a return to cars like the Lotus Elan and the MGB of the mid 1900s. Unfortunately, they were really cute and affordable and became the epitome of a top-down-at-the-mall girl car. The Miata is pretty far down the list due to a seriously fanatic group of supporters at places like Miata.net, a pretty hardcore racing series, and the awesomely badass Monster Miata conversions.

4.) Toyota RAV4

02rav4.jpg

With as many soccer moms as you see driving tank-like SUVs down the road, you’d think picking a girl-SUV would have been easier than I found it to be. Since Marge Simpson’s Canyonero isn’t a real car, I picked the small SUV that I’ve never known to have been bought by a guy for himself (including the one I looked to buy - not for myself): The Toyota RAV4. Just look at it. If it were smaller, you could totally picture it in a woman’s closet, couldn’t you?

3.) Volkswagen (New) Beetle

vwbeetle.jpg

I have to confess: I love Volkswagen Beetles. Older ones, that is. I have all the Herbie movies on DVD, and I even have a Herbie Rides Again paperback book. For being as groovy and cult-worthy as the old ones were, the newer ones just don’t look right with a man behind the wheel. Volkswagen may as well embrace their image and make a Hello Kitty edition of this car.

2.) Mustang Convertible (especially the four and six cylinder versions)

65mustang.jpg

Cute sister of the more macho Mustang GT, this is the car that car guy dads get for their daughters and drive themselves around in on the weekends while the daughter is “grounded”. Suuuuurrrre it’s your daughter’s car, car guy dads of America. Whatever you guys need to tell yourselves to sleep better at night. It’s her car.

1.) Volkswagen Rabbit/Golf Cabriolet

cabriolet.JPG

This is the quintessential girl car. It’s impossible for a guy to drive one for a week and not hear comments about how “girly” it is from guys and “cute” it is from girls. As if they just plain gave up on any semblance of masculinity, Volkswagen even used the French word for “car with a folding top”.

If I ever saw a male construction worker jump into one of these after a hard day on the job, I would have an immediate coronary.

There you have it. Anybody remember one I missed?

–Will Thompson

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DaimlerChrysler sells Chrysler

Monday, May 14th, 2007

As of about 7 AM EST, DaimlerChrysler has agreed to sell it’s struggling Chrysler arm (or at least 80.1% of it) to Cerberus for $7.4 billion.

This is obviously no secret, since DaimlerChrysler has been shopping Chrysler to folks for a few months now. What is interesting is that the deal went to Cerberus, and not Magna (which has a Russian financial interest) and billionaire Kirk Kerkorian.

The New York Times article bring up a few interesting points:

Of the $7.4 billion, Cerberus agreed to invest $5 billion in the new Chrysler and $1.05 billion in Chrysler’s financial arm. The remaining $1.35 billion will go to DaimlerChrysler.

DaimlerChrysler’s share of the capital represents a remarkable comedown for a company that paid $36 billion to acquire Chrysler in 1998, in a landmark deal that was initially hailed as a blueprint for the future of the global auto industry.

You read that right. DaimlerChrysler paid $36 billion and sold it for $7.4 billion. Nice investment there, Dr. Z. The New York Times article also had another quote that made me spit coffee out my nose:

The chairman of Cerberus, John W. Snow, said, “We would like to thank DaimlerChrysler for their good stewardship of this American icon over the last decade. We are aware that Chrysler faces significant challenges, but we are confident that they can and will be overcome.” Mr. Snow is the former United States treasury secretary.

That’s some good stewardship, alright.

–Will Thompson

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150 HP 50 MPG two cylinder engine

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

The late Smokey Yunick (1923-2001) was one of the greatest automotive engineering minds the world has known. Smokey was also notorious for cheating and being so full of BS in NASCAR that stories about him are legendary. One of Smokey’s most legendary engineering feats (and rule violations) was building a 7/8 scale Chevelle and racing it in a NASCAR race.

It’s no surprise then, that one of his most significant accomplishments has people who doubt it’s very existence. The adiabatic engine project by Smokey was an engine design that promised unreal feats from a carbureted gasoline engine. The claims of a 150 horsepower, 50 miles-per-gallon, two cylinder engine are enough to set the tin-foil hat brigade chattering about a possible government-big oil conspiracy to keep Smokey’s invention out of the hands of Joe Consumer.

After a few Google searches and a few days looking around to see what I could find, I didn’t come up with much beyond theory and anecdotal evidence. I did notice a few patents, with this one being most likely the one that sets everyone’s brain gears a-whirring. Here’s the only diagram of anything remotely related to an adiabatic engine:

dia1.png

It seems this guy probably did more research than just about anyone, but most of the links are broken now, and the site’s a bit hard to read due to a language barrier.

Nearly every Smokey Yunick historian remembers the adiabatic Fiero, but no one can find evidence of it’s existence or an actual guide to the technology it possessed.

After reading a few days about Smokey, it seems to me that he would have enjoyed the controversy.

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The five best movie car chases of all time

Monday, May 7th, 2007

OK, settle in. This is gonna be a long post, especially if you watch all the movies.

After running across a YouTube clip from The Driver, I decided that my first actual post on this blog should be a subject that touches the heart of almost every car guy or girl: car chases. I have no idea why movies today don’t have good car chase scenes. I think a lot of the problem is that modern CGI technology gives moviemakers an easy way to fake the incredible stunts that helped make older movies with car chases so great. Call it The Matrix Effect.

Anyway, here are Autoblogger.net’s top five best car chases of all time, in reverse order:

5.) The Seven-Ups

Summary:
This is one of the coolest car chases in a movie that not a lot of folks have seen. The ending was especially good on this one, and car chase endings are a sticky point for me.

Memories:
Does anyone else my age (mid 30s) have memories of riding around in those giant land yachts from the early 70s with gobs of torque and big cubic inch engines? Those things practically floated on air, and the door handles nearly scraped when going around a curve because the suspension was so soft. I think those cars were purposefully engineered to put kids asleep in the back seat.

Notes:
An interesting thing to keep an eye on here is the driver of the land yacht. You’ll be seeing him again in this list. The bad guy in the passenger seat of the land yacht is obviously a rookie at getting chased. He pretty much wigs out the whole time, flailing his arms, holding on to the grab handle, and generally looking like a big wuss. Come on, bad guy. In the words of Tom Landry, act like you’ve been there before!

4.) The Blues Brothers

Summary:
One of the most classic catastrophic car chases in movie history. I think this movie wiped out every mid 70s Dodge Monaco in Illinois. It touches a pet peeve of mine for realism for the Bluesmobile being a “magic car”, but in the end it makes up for it by dropping a Ford Pinto station wagon (containing Illinois Nazis) from a height so tall the filmmakers had to get FAA certification. Looking back, it was the only humane thing to do to the Pinto.

Memories:
“It’s got a cop motor, a 440 cubic inch plant, it’s got cop tires, cop suspensions, cop shocks. It’s a model made before catalytic converters so it’ll run good on regular gas. What do you say, is it the new Bluesmobile or what?”

Notes:
At the time of its release, this movie held the world record for number of cars crashed. In a 1998 interview for Universal, John Landis credited mob help for getting permission from the Cook County Board of Commissioners for this (alluding to the Board being mob-controlled at that time). The political outrage for the damage caused by this car chase actually caused the mayor of Chicago to lose a bid for re-election.

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About Automotive Blogger

Some people use their automobiles only to get from Point A to Point B. You know there's more than that. You get mad when someone makes a remark about your car that's less than flattering. You get riled when a cool car is destroyed in a straight-to-video movie. You realize when a new car doesn't deserve it's name of a great car of the past. When you see someone driving a boring vehicle, you feel sorry for them. You know it's not the destination that counts - it's the journey. Welcome home gearheads. Welcome home, car freaks. Welcome to the site that fuels your automotive obsession - AutomotiveBlogger.net

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