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By on January 18, 2010


[Editor's Note: The following was originally printed 13 years ago in the Corvallis Gazette-Times. It was written by Alexander "Sasha" Volokh of the highly excellent Volokh Conspiracy blog. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.]

The private car is unpopular these days. When it isn’t blamed for congestion, it’s blamed for pollution. And, invariably, the proposed solutions are restrictions on driving, increased taxes for public transit and other punitive programs or regulations.

But the trouble with seeing driving as the enemy is that it’s too easy to lose sight of its benefits.

(Read More…)

By on November 28, 2009

The archives of TTAC contain some real gems. Since probably quite a few of you weren’t here three years ago or more, we’re going to mine them occasionally for our weekend reading pleasure. This piece originally ran on November 19, 2006.

Please note that the author is actually Steve Smohlenkamp. I am unable to reinsert his name due to technical difficulties (otherwise known as operator error). My apologies. PN

photo by Steve SmohlenkampAs a six-year-old growing up in the rich farmlands of northern Illinois, I spent my days playing in the creeks that meandered along and across Flansberg and Orangeville roads. One day, I was ambling home when a thunderous roar jolted me from my reverie. A black car came out of the curve behind me and sped past. The passenger waved. Convinced that I’d seen not one but two ghosts (restless souls at that), I ran home. (Read More…)

By on October 3, 2009

Sharonville Transmission Plant (courtesy

So exactly how did Ford achieve quality equal to Toyota? Or are their TV ads misleading, as the ads from decades ago which proclaimed “At Ford Quality Is Job One”? This was the question in my mind as I returned to the Sharonville Transmission Plant after exactly 30 years. A long term friend, who did not jump ship in 1979 as I had done, when it looked like Ford was going to self destruct, got me past the guard post for a tour of the plant. Jerry had seen what he called “a compete transformation of Ford Motor Company” during his 37 years. He said I would not recognize the place.

By on July 25, 2009

I have nothing against the Toyota Prius. It’s the car’s mystique that irks me. You know what I’m talking about: the whole “Toyota Pious” thing. As someone who’s read rational reports from Prius-owning TAC commentators, as a pistonhead who understands that there’s more to driving a Ferrari than beauty and performance, I swear I’m OK with the hybrid’s PC mantle. But the Prius’s high MPG numbers and green street cred tends to stifle the debate on some important points.

By on May 26, 2009

[This editorial was sent to us by Charley Territo from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.] For the past eight years, a group that represents aftermarket parts suppliers has lobbied in Congress and state houses across the country for legislation that would give them free access to the intellectual property of automakers. Automakers spend more on research and development than any other industry. The proponents of this legislation can’t keep up. Their hope is that passage of Right to Repair would cut down on the costs and time needed to develop aftermarket parts to compete with OEMs. In practice, this legislation would do nothing to address the problems the CARE coalition says exist. It is a solution in search of a problem.

By on April 14, 2009

[The following is another contribution from our anonymous ChryCo contact] I worked for Chrysler for many years in Product Development as a Design Engineer though I no longer do. I saw comments on a recent post by another employee asking why, when Chrysler merged with Daimler, did they still share platforms with Mitsubishi?

By on April 6, 2009

[written by TTAC commentator FreedMike] I’ve been shopping these two cars (much to the annoyance of the local BMW and Infiniti dealers, but, hey, it’s MY 40 large, not YOURS, so I’ll be picky if I wanna be). So I’m VERY familiar with them. I don’t know why TTAC’s comparison was between the 324-hp G37 and a 328 that gives up about 100 HP. The G37 will eat the 328 for lunch. The real comparison is between the G37 and the 335.

By on February 24, 2009

In response to Jack Baruth’s editorial, Mike Stone writes:

I have been making the same 60-mile round trip commute for many years, my route consisting of rural 2 lane roads and expressways. During the course of every winter, regular as clockwork, I see 5 to 10 vehicles that have run off the road in icy, snowy or wet conditions. Some of these are clearly a result of excessive speed but on two occasions, I have been behind a vehicle that was travelling at or below a safe speed when it simply lost control. What could cause such a thing? A clue lies in a well-documented statistic that 93% of all traffic accidents are the result of human error.

By on November 23, 2006

x07st_vu007.jpgIn 1971, U.S. Senator Roman Hruska rose to the defense of an undistinguished Supreme Court nominee named G. Harrold Carswell. "Even if he is mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they?" And their successors are entitled to wheels befitting their station in life, like the Saturn Vue Green Line.

By on November 20, 2006

saturn_outlook_2007_1d.jpgSoccer Moms who adopted fossil-feasting truck-based SUVs for their parental duties know the truth: the genre is falling from fashion faster than Sony’s PS2. Style-conscious sprog schleppers now want a spacious rug-rat mover that doesn’t drain tanker trucks or scream mommy-van. For them, crossovers are The Next Big Thing. They’re eyeing vehicles like the new Saturn Outlook, the first of GM’s all-new Lambda platform-based crossovers (the GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave are set to follow). The Outlook replaces the TWAT-winning Relay minivan– which isn’t exactly a tough act to follow. Still, will the Outlook break a leg?

By on October 26, 2006

front1.jpgIf I worked for Infiniti, I’d spend a lot of my day pissed off. Infiniti G35 equals The Japanese BMW? Man that must rankle. Not as much as G35 equals The Poor Man’s BMW, but more than enough to aggravate auto execs all the way from Yokohama to Boulogne-Billancourt. In fact, I bet there’s a bunch of Infiniti engineers who’ve compared their handiwork to Munich’s motorized meisterstuck and can’t decide whether to commit seppuku or hunt down Bimmer’s boffins and make them eat sushi, if you know what I mean. OK, that’s a bit overly-dramatic, but what the Hell’s a Japanese sports sedan got to do to get a little respect around here?

By on June 5, 2006

 As I fired up the GL450, I noticed that the big Merc's trip computer had begun calculating my mpg. I watched in startled fascination as the idling SUV's fuel economy began to drop from the previous night's calculation. Although Mercedes deserves props (or brickbats) for releasing such a glorious gas hog at the tail end of America's SUV craze, the dropping digits left me wondering how the GL450 could possibly rationalize this lampshade-on-the-head consumptive behavior. Even if the target market's interest in fuel economy is more political than wallet-driven, the GL still needs to stump-up some serious self-justification.

By on May 2, 2006

 Turn the ignition, and its carnal soul stirs from hibernation. The engine rumbles and burps its way to idle. Blip the throttle and unbridled power and torque stir your soul. Grab the pistol grip shifter, throw the slush box into D and let em' rip. There's no denying the truth about muscle cars, and no denying their place in the world. Known and revered globally, Japan has their R34's, Deutschland has their M's and AMG's and the US, of course with its goats, 427's and Hemi's. The muscle cars' place on this earth is to remain politically incorrect, defy the law, and spit in the face of the rebel which lies in all of us.

Some would argue that the term "muscle car" is an American term, originating during the 50's or 60's. But in actuality, the muscle car has lived, exactly, since the assemblage of automobile number 2. Over the years, muscle cars have evolved from an existence solely defined by monster displacement, to fully sorted and balanced ubermachines, equally capable of accelerating, turning and stopping within un-comprehensible and convention defying specifications. If necessity is the mother of invention, then muscle cars are the dead-beat father of innovation. Through their evolution, laws (governmental, physical or otherwise) have challenged engineers and gearheads to do more with less. Inevitably they succeed.

By on May 2, 2006

 In an act of enormous generosity, a fresh-from-the-farm fraternity pledge offered to drive the Polo-clad seniors around in his car—a restored 1967 GTO with Centerline wheels. "No one in Independence (Missouri) ever beat it," he proudly declared. "Worth over 20 grand." That was in 1990. The older fraternity brothers winced. "We'll be seen in that?" Showing maturity beyond his years, he stabled the Goat and returned next semester with a beat-up Tercel. This was, ironically, the more socially acceptable choice at my upper-middle-class fraternity.

Muscle cars are cool. They're tough. They're American. But they're not for up-and-comers. Refined? Well, no. Sophisticated? Hardly. A technological tour de force? Save them words for androgynous Europeans with little glasses. If you're the type who understands opera or worries about the safety of dolphins or includes "tofu" on your grocery list, don't even try to understand.

By on May 2, 2006

 I grew up in the Muscle-Car Belt – the area between the Rockies and wherever the first Ivy League university is in the east. Problem was, my family was Not From Around Here. We were English. We spoke funny. We ate Marmite. We were scrawny and had bad teeth.

But worst of all – and this sounds like an infectious disease – we had Jags.

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