Posts By: Jack Baruth

By on March 25, 2015

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If you’ve read much of the automotive press or the mainstream media in the past twenty-four hours, you’ve no doubt heard the latest news: Americans drove more miles in January than they’ve driven in any single month since 1970, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Put aside for the fact that the “Federal Highway Association” shouldn’t be able to quote that number with even a modicum of statistical confidence, and indeed they have no real way to know how many miles are driven in this country. Nor should they be able to do so.

More fascinating than the factoid or the ostensible reasons behind it are the various spins put on it across the blogosphere. Autoblog notes that “nearly half of drivers are fifty years old or above”. Bloomberg turns it into a piece on the economy, touting the recovery while tactfully failing to mention the fact that a record-setting number of people in their prime earning years have given up on even looking for work. The Financial Post reprinted Bloomberg’s story verbatim but focused on the idea that “three is a magic number for the economy.”

Perhaps the most thoughtful analysis on the news, however, was performed by Matt Hardigree at Jalopnik. It’s a pleasure to read and Matt marshals his arguments in careful order towards an obvious conclusion. As fate would have it, however, I find myself forced to hoist the opposing standard.

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By on March 24, 2015

diesel

As fate would have it, I was twenty-four years old before I saw Los Angeles for the first time. Prior to that, I knew nothing about SoCal besides what I could read in BMX Action! and see in movies. One thing about LA that I remembered from growing up in the Seventies was that LA was the reason for “smog laws” and the 165-horsepower Corvette and the infamous thermal-reactor Bimmers and the many evils of the C.A.R.B. I think I half-expected to see the city blanketed in fumes like the cover of Modern Vampires Of The City.

You probably know what a ridiculous half-expectation that was. The battle for clean air in California was fought, and won, long before I got my driver’s license. The number of cars operating in Los Angeles has more than doubled since my youth, but ozone in the air is just forty percent of what it was. The modern automobile is virtually an air scrubber; there’s less poison coming out of the tailpipe than there is entering the intake. The miracle that made this situation possible — the combination of platinum catalysts and truly effective electronic engine control — has also ushered in the true golden age of automotive performance.

Unless you live in France, of course, where the cars are slower than dogshit, the air teems with chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer, and the capital city is reduced to alternate-day driving bans just to keep a black cloud of poison off the shoulder of the Eiffel Tower. How do you explain this? How is it that degenerate, low-riding, poke-and-stretch, Topanga-Canyon-carving Los Angeles breathes fresh air while the beret-clad heads culturally progressive superiors in blessed France shake from coughing?

Well, we all know the answer: Religion.

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By on March 23, 2015

The plan: to drive nine hundred and seventy-two miles between 8PM Friday night and 1AM Sunday morning. The purpose: for me and my music partner Patrick, familiar to my blog readers from our indefensible habit of trying to arrange, learn, and perform new songs in a two-hour window, to spend Saturday afternoon at Wooten Woods, […]

By on March 20, 2015

General Motors has traditionally lived and died by the excellence of its marketing — or at least it did before the 1977 Accord delivered a bunker-buster to its core business, anyway. Sometimes the marketing is regrettable, sometimes it’s brilliant. And sometimes it’s hilariously, and almost literally, tone deaf.

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By on March 17, 2015

neverlst

Frequent renters know and loathe the Hertz “AlwaysLost” aftermarket nav system for its unique combination of Commodore-VIC-20-esque interface and vague indifference to actual location. It’s best to think of the little black box as the Jar-Jar Binks of the rental-car business; sometimes it forgets that entire blocks of major city of streets exist, sometimes it interprets your freeway drive as a series of excursions to the surface streets beneath which causes a Tourette’s-like existential scream of continuously changing directions, and sometimes it’s just plain lost. But just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse for the hapless Hertz customer, it turns out that the box might also be spying on you.

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By on March 16, 2015

The idea of the Mercedes SLK is just two years younger than the idea of the Mercedes SL. Of course, back in 1954 the marketing folks didn’t quite have the clout or imagination they have now, so the original SLK was simply called the 190SL. Like today’s SLK, it was based on small-sedan mechanicals and […]

By on March 12, 2015

transmission4

“The transmission works exactly like most manual transmissions found in any car or truck,” explained Harrell. “However, I can barely explain how it works. It’s fairly hard to grasp unless you assemble one or see an animation of one opened up.”

Last year, I wrote Concours d’Angst as a vision of what small-scale manufacturing might bring to the automotive enthusiast landscape. While I was busy imagining the future, however, someone else was busy making it.

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By on March 12, 2015

This is the kind of video that causes sleeplessness in back-road thrashers. An Ariel Atom chases a sportbike down a California two-lane, only to find a stopped car around a blind corner. At first glance it seems to be a stunning indictment of reckless vehicle operation, but there might be more to the story.

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By on March 11, 2015

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It seems like yesterday
But it was long ago
RS America in the dealership’s lights
Covered with dust and it had nowhere to go
And it sat there for a year
Till they sold it at a loss
Slow like a Boxster headlights just like a frog
And all the service had been skipped and no one gave a toss

And I remember how cheap they used to be
And I thought that it never would end
I remember how they bought and sold for pennies
Wish I’d had a crystal ball and bought one then

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By on March 10, 2015

ITB

Did you make the sensible, sane choice of the four-cylinder engine in your 2015 Accord? What about refusing to perform an LS7 swap in your CR-V immediately after taking delivery? Well, now you are going to (have a one in three thousand chance that you will have to) pay for that mistake.

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  • Jack Baruth, United States
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