Friday, October 9, 2009

cars: death of American brands

I'm surprised how my friends didn't care about General Motors going under. Making things is important to a country's soul, and the alternative of financial shenanigans didn't work out well.

GM has survived, but at the cost of so many storied nameplates. It's hard to keep track of the carnage, here's where things stand, with a little help from Wikipedia.

Hummer: Its sale to Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Company blocked by Chinese government on "environmental grounds" in June, but in October it finally went through for $150 million (a baseball stadium costs three times as much). GM has no plans to continue the nameplate after the 2010 model year.

Opel/Vauxhall: Sold! To consortium lead by Magna Group-backed-by-Sberbank of Russia (55%). GM will continue to own 35% of Opel; while Opel employees will own 10%. Called "New GM Europe" by some.

Pontiac: dropped, all of its remaining models will be phased out by the end of 2010.

Saab: A deal to sell it to tiny Swedish supercar maker Koenigseggeggegegg (sp?) is supposedly still on, though it depends on three billion Swedish Kronor appearing from the tooth fairy troll.

Saturn: Dead now.

GM holds on to Chevrolet, Buick (mostly for China), Cadillac, and GMC trucks and SUVs.

Damn that's depressing. It mirrors the fall of British Leyland.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

cars: BMW's disgusting anti-utility attitude

A boxy shape is the most sensible and practical car for more than 4 adults and their stuff. Focus on the people's comfort and you get a minivan, focus on compactness and you get a cube car like the original Scion xB, blend the two and you get a station wagon.

USA car marketers believe they have turned "minivan" and "station wagon" into the kiss of death. BMW admits they have to deliberately screw up their design for a new "car for more than 4 adults and their stuff" that they call a Progressive Activity Sedan; they even have the gall to tell us 0:38 into this concept sketch video
"A sedan isn't roomy enough.
A station wagon could be the best solution... (contemptuously) noeeeuuuuww that has too much utility character.
Maybe we could build it higher. It's just more impressive."
Worse aerodynamics, worse handling, more weight, worse gas mileage, and blocks everyone else's view of the road (which doesn't matter if you're a selfish self-centered oblivious asshole). The opposite of utility is frivolity and stupidity.

I love some of Chris Bangle's BMW designs and admire nearly all of them, but this just makes me hate, Hate, HATE BMW and anyone who will drive this particular model.

In the comments MR42HH provides pics of the Europeans making practical handsome cars like the Renault Avantime, Ford Galaxy, and Citroen Picasso when they're not afraid of "utility" (none of these are available in the USA):

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

cars: Goldidonks and the three rims

three cars on big, bigger, biggest rims
The wheels on the first car (Lexus GS430? Nissan something?) were merely large, so Goldilocks tried the 4th-gen 1995 Camaro on thirty-inch monstrosities but found it was like riding in an oversized bouncy baby carriage. But the mama bear's third-gen 1985 Camaro Z28 on 22s was just right.

There's something so willfully, childishly over-the-top about modifying a car to ride on oversized wheels shod with rubber less than three inches tall, completely ruining the ride, risking wheel damage at every pothole, and forcing you to drive and corner gingerly at less than 40 mph. Especially when the original car's tiny disc and drum brakes leave gaping holes to peer through. Hot Wheels toy cars brought to life. It makes me want to get “38” badges in iced diamonds for my Subaru — cm, baby, rollin' metric style!ice diamond 22″ badge!

In my area there aren't many classic 70s-80s Impalas and Caprices available, so people have turned all kinds of sedans into Hi-Risers on gigantic rims. I saw a 90s Jaguar XJ in purple on 28-inch wheels.

There's some low-rider culture too, I occasionally see deep red Monte Carlos with engraved windows tooling around on small gold-spoke wheels. South of San Jose I saw two Lincoln Navigators rolling on tiny wheels, which turns an aggressive behemoth into a friendly bus with running boards lower than the curb.

I'm not too sure on the economics of spending several thousand dollars per wheel on these, but it's hella entertaining.

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

cars: 1984 Civic 1500S with the Teddy Bear wheels

I saw this in my neighborhoodHonda Civic 1500S with Ronal Teddy Bear wheels
The 1984 Honda Civic 1500S in the beautiful gray two-tone. Almost as cherry as the one I owned.

Check out the wheels! I remember seeing these "teddy bear" wheels in car magazines, I thought they were by Koei, but these are by Ronal.Ronal 'Teddy Bear' wheel - classic!Note the wheel lock in the belly button.

I've been meaning to update my Civic page with more information about that incomparable design. Car Styling magazine was kind enough to photocopy the pages about the entire third-generation "Civic Renaissance" design program from issue 44 for me. It was a global tour de force, a single program delivered this fantastic hatchback, the Civic sedan, the CRX pocket-sized sport coupe, the innovative Civic "Space" Shuttle all-wheel drive (much better than a fat tall SUV), and the Ballade variants for the Japanese domestic market. Wow.

Douglas Halbert of Honda R&D Americas contacted me and commented
Tony Ikeda, Ed Watts, Truman Pollard and myself were the designers working on the project. All my designs were of the long-roof concept and we were in competition with Hiroshi Zaima and the HGW staff in Japan.

Hmm, the design came out in 1984. High point of Western civilization indeed!

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Friday, May 23, 2008

cars: posts, Prius, progress

There seems to be only one skierpage after endless registering to comment, so were you motivated to be my Boswell you could search for all the pearls I toss before swine all over the IntarWubwubwub-Dot-Tubes. Here's one I wrote more pearly than others, fighting the unwarranted hostility towards the Toyota Prius:
Meanwhile, the Prius is a mind-bending class of its own. The most fuel-efficient car in the USA (48 city/45 highway) isn't a two-person runabout, isn't a subcompact car, isn't a compact car, isn't priced out-of-reach. It's a midsize practical hatchback for $21,000. The mega-lame bunk is the other car companies and Toyota itself haven't tried to compete. The Prius has been number 1 for years (ever since Honda discontinued the Insight). In that time every month brought another car company relentlessly pushing 4-door sports sedans from 350 HP to 400 and now 500+ HP, but the Prius coasts unchallenged. Where's the equivalent parade of Prius-killers busting past 50mpg? Where's the Prius competitor that gets 40+ but is fun to drive? Why do Toyota's smaller cars get worse mileage? All we have is the promise of GM's Volt around 2010 2011, and nothing from other companies.
There are literally over a dozen Prius parked within a block of here, and I'm surprised there aren't even more. Once you want a more economical less-polluting car (here's the EPA's full list for 2008 (pdf) ), there-can-be-only-one. Why buy a Smart or a Mini that's smaller only to get worse mileage? Why buy any other hybrid? Do you really need a stupid tall SUV? Almost every decision process leads inexorably to the Prius. And none of my friends who've bought one is smug, they like the car but are smart enough to know it doesn't solve everything/anything.

Meanwhile my search for an all-wheel drive snow car may have a light at the end of the tunnel: there will supposedly be an Audi A3 2.0TFSI DSG quattro, and an AWD Mini Clubman in 2009. But the mileage of both will probably be nothing special. Where's the Prius of AWD cars? (the Ford Escape sure ain't it).

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Monday, February 4, 2008

art: Decotora! Decotora! Decotora!

From the “Decotora” photo book. © Masaru Tatsuki

From the “Decotora” photo book. © Masaru Tatsuki

== "Decorated trucks" Makes me homesick for Japan, a place I've only been for 14 days. The obsessive impulse of the "Proud and lonely".

I'd love to see those hurtling over California's I-80 at night through the snow.

Read PingMag's interview with the author of the “Decotora” photo book, Masaru Tatsuki.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Look at that 'S car go'

A friend couldn't help making that triple pun. Nissan made their own triple entendre with the 1989 S-Cargo, a limited edition micro-van for the Japanese market that looks like a snail (French escargot). I finally saw one in person.
Nissan S-Cargo from side
S-Cargo logo on rear windowGet it? The owner jumps in on the pun with this dashboard tchotchke snail on S-Cargo dash

I've owned a Rabbit 'S' and the extremely handsome Honda Civic 'S', but the Audi and Porsche 'S' models have no appeal. The S-Cargo is tempting and surprisingly practical for such a pure expression of a snail shape, but no rich celebrity has loaned me a corner of her temperature-controlled garage.
Nissan S-Cargo from front corner


Thursday, February 15, 2007

cars: post-SUV era

We've been looking to replace our car for over two years, and nothing has changed. All-wheel drive snow car means an SUV, or a VW/Audi with monster engine, or the cheap Subaru Outback Sport. People who ski have money but as more suffer the lack of snow at resorts, more will care about the environment; sell us a suitable car!

If this rumor is true, BMW is looking beyond the SUV.
Both would be five-door, five-passenger vehicles with rear or all-wheel drive offered. They're designed to be sporty and yet capacious, with ride and handling to BMW sedan standards. They'll eschew larger wheels and tires that add unsprung weight as well as high centers of gravity that diminish ride and handling quality.
And if they're less tall they'll have better aerodynamics. Still no hybrid option.