Posts By: David C. Holzman

By on February 23, 2016

Aliza McKeigue with her 2001 Toyota Corolla, Image: Claire Brennan

Some fans of this website might call it an econobox. Others, who obviously don’t know better, might even call it a “penalty box.” But to Aliza McKeigue, 25, the humble 2001 Toyota Corolla is a beloved companion. She refers to the car affectionately in the third person singular, feminine.

So when Aliza left Boston, Massachusetts in January 2015, for what she thought was going to be six months of WWOOFing in Hawaii (that awkward acronym stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), she left the car at the old family home with her father and brother. But she soon found herself wanting to stay indefinitely, and began considering her longer term transportation options. Among other things, she had started recycling stuff — collectable and otherwise — at a local market, a business that she calls Funky Finds. She needed a vehicle. The more she looked at local used cars, the more she wanted her Corolla.

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By on October 27, 2015

1984 Saturn Concept CarIn a 1992 op-ed that appeared in the Indianapolis Star and the Cleveland Plain Dealer, I expounded on the predictions of the MIT-based authors of “The Machine That Changed the World”, and lean production. I cited that book, and Consumer Reports’ glowing review of the Saturn as evidence that real competition could make the U.S. auto industry great once again. Subsequently, I bought a Saturn, which ultimately proved inferior in durability to the car I had shopped it against, the Integra. Looking back more than two decades, how have we succeeded, and how have we failed, and how did the MIT authors’ predictions hold up?


Few experts would have predicted that an all new American car could have matched the first year reliability of the Toyotas and Hondas, the best of the Japanese. Yet General Motors’ Saturn did just that, according to the April Consumer Reports.

On top of that, the car has all the practical appeal of the old Volkswagen Beetle. The plastic body panels are built to take parking lot abuse without denting or scratching. But damaged panels can be replaced easily and inexpensively. How many people does it take to change a headlight on a Saturn? Just one, and it’s as easy as changing a lightbulb.

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By on February 7, 2015

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Look for the leading presidential candidates to sing corn ethanol’s praises, louder than ever, in 2016. A bipartisan coalition of Iowans, called America’s Renewable Future, is gearing up to make it happen.

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By on January 29, 2015

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Despite a collapse in oil prices of 50 percent since summer’s end, Saudi Arabia, whose vast production capacity has enabled that country to modulate world oil prices by adjusting its output, “effectively resigned from that role,” Daniel Yergin wrote in this past Sunday’s New York Times Week in Review. “…OPEC handed over all responsibility for oil prices to the market, which the Saudi oil minister, Ali Al-Naimi, predicted would ‘stabilize itself eventually.’”

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By on January 15, 2015

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Last week, I bought gasoline for less than $2/gallon for the first time in probably more than a decade. A tankful for my ’08 Civic (stick) cost me sixteen whole dollars and fifty-three cents.

Now two leading thinkers, one from each party, have called for taking the opportunity of low gas prices to slap a tax on petroleum—or on carbon.

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By on September 5, 2014

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Boston: not the worst?

According to Allstate’s latest annual “America’s Best Drivers Report,” three Massachusetts cities have the worst drivers. Allstate’s analysis included the nation’s 200 largest cities. But fear not, fellow Bay Staters: our Masshole reputation is undeserved, according to Slate Magazine. They have come up with their own top (worst) 40, and we’re way down the list.

We’ll tell you who those losers are. But first: here’s Slate’s critique of Allstate, followed by it’s own methodology.

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By on February 1, 2014

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Most marriages don’t last nearly as long as Irven Gordon’s Volvo P1800 has lasted. And most couples probably don’t spend as much time together as Irv has spent in his beloved car.

Irv says he hadn’t even heard of Volvos until a few days before he bought the car, on June 30, 1966. At the time, he was fed up with his turbocharged 1963 Corvair Spyder, which he says was constantly making him late for his middle school science teaching job by breaking down en route. While thumbing through a Car and Driver with a car savvy friend, he stumbled upon an ad for the local Volvo dealership, with a photo of a P1800. “These are great cars,” the friend told him. So down he went to Volvoville in Huntington, NY, and took a P1800 convertible for a spin. He drove for three hours, and then bought the much less expensive coupe, for $4,150, or $30,000 in current dollars, approximately his then annual salary.

That first weekend, Irv rolled 1,500 miles, returning to the dealership on Monday for his car’s first checkup. He hadn’t planned to drive through the weekend, but he says he was having too much fun to stop—up to Boston, down to Philly, and all over in between before returning to his home on Long Island. He’s been driving the P1800 enthusiastically ever since. On September 24th of last year, he hit 3 million miles.
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By on October 13, 2013

It was like finding a living mammoth, or one of those miniature elephants that still inhabited some islands off the coast until about four thousand years ago. There, in the video, was Grace Braeger pulling up to the gas pumps in her 1957 Chevy, which she had bought new, back in the fall of 1957, about the same time my parents and my brother and I had gone to the car store to get our ’57 Chevy wagon, when I was 4. We had bid ours adieu 8 years later. But the memories surged as I watched Ms. Braeger pump gas. The chrome gas cap cover doubles as the back of the tailfin, and there it was, flicked back to accommodate the nozzle. Then the scene shifts, and I’m riding shotgun, watching Ms. Braeger hang a right and then a left, steering hand over hand—with gusto and panache!—a necessary technique in the days of five turns lock to lock.
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By on December 14, 2012

This “barn find” was found at Johnnie’s Sales and Service just the other week, down on Warwick Rd., somewhere in the middle of Massachusetts, where the car has sat for… seems no-one hereabouts can quite remember. (Read More…)

By on December 29, 2011

Twas the day before Christmas, and driving from Lexington, Mass., to northern Virginia, on the New Jersey Turnpike just two miles south of the Molly Pitcher service area, my ’99 Accord 5-speed hit 200,000 miles. I love the New Jersey Turnpike so this was a highly appropriate spot for the milestone.
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By on September 20, 2011

From all the hype it gets, you would think hybrid technology is intrinsically green—and many Americans, including some policy-makers actually believe that. The Union of Concerned Scientists’ (UCS) new hybrid scorecard lays that canard to rest.

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By on September 16, 2011

The rot-gut whiskey powered good ol’ boys who turned their fleet flite from revenooers into stock car racing must be flipping their ‘40 Fords in their graves. Nah, on second thought, they’d be so proud that their Prohibition-defying race car culture has swept the nation they’d be bemused by the news. Nascar is going effete… uh, green.

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By on July 30, 2011

“Ask Amy” advice columnist and self-help memoir author Amy Dickinson has the late Ann Landers’ old slot on the Chicago Tribune. She also has a 1967 Morris Minor. She fell in love with the car the first time she saw one, soon after she moved to London with her then-husband, in 1986. “They are so cute, they look like ice cream cones,” she says. She loves the clatter of its engine, and the way people smile when she drives by, and she says it is her favorite material object in the world.

So after her husband embarked on an open-endedly extended business trip, in 1988, Dickinson, then a housewife, took her five week old baby, Emily, in a taxi to a dealer who restored Morrises, and made her purchase, for 1,500 pounds (roughly $5,000 in current dollars). “One advantage of driving a beautiful, quirky vintage car is that it really helped me meet people,” she says. “So many men said to me, ‘I had one of these,’ and ‘my dad had one of these,’ not to mention ‘getting rid of my Morris Minor was my biggest mistake.’”

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By on May 3, 2011

One of the worst things about traffic is that it’s so unpredictable. You can be whizzing along one minute, and crawling with the snails the next. Even the real-time traffic information that a few companies, notably Google, now provide, can be obsolete by the time you’re on your way.But a small cadre of lucky San Franciscans will soon be finding out where the traffic will be before it happens, thanks to a joint project by the California Center for Innovative Transportation (CCIT) at the University of California, Berkeley (my alma mater) the California Department of Transportation, aka Caltrans, and IBM.

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By on April 10, 2011


Some nutcase on a big wheel trike beat a bus in a mile-long race in midtown Manhattan—by an absolutely incredible two minutes and 38 seconds.Meshugina Mark Malkoff, the comedian best known for living in the Ikea off the New Jersey Turnpike between exits 13 and 14 for an entire week; for visiting all 171 skcubratS in Manhattan in less than 24 hours, and buying something from each, and eating or drinking it; and for disappointing his mother by refusing even to apply to medical school (I made that last up, but logic dictates that it had to have happened) accomplished this feat on a Razor Rip Rider 360, obeying all traffic signals, and averaging 4.7 mph. The bus averaged 3.8 mph, which, as Mark pointed out in the video, is slower than a brisk walker, a skate boarder, someone on a pogo stick, or a snail riding on the back of a turtle. Not to name-drop, but Malkoff just happens to be my sister-in-law, Alison’s first cousin once removed. Which makes him my first cousin-in-law, once removed. (Read More…)

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