Posts By: Jack Baruth

By on October 29, 2015


This is Part Two; Part One is found here —JB

The Best & Brightest didn’t contest my point too strongly earlier this week when I suggested that the American family vehicle of choice has long possessed familiar dimensions despite sporting a diverse variety of exterior styles, from “tri-five” to high-hip CUV. Some of you thought it was a point too trite to make — what’s next, some assertion on my point that family cars always have four wheels? — but I think most Americans believe there’s a genuine difference between a Ford Fairmont wagon and a Ford Edge CUV.

If, on the other hand, there is not a genuine difference, it raises the question: What external force constrains it thus? What’s so special about those “A-body” dimensions? What makes us return again and again to the scene of crime, across generations, both human and mechanical?

Or at least that is the question I thought I should be asking, prior to truly thinking about it.

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By on October 27, 2015


Let’s make up a phrase, shall we? Come on, it will be fun. We are going to associate a celebrity name with a known phenomenon in human society. Think of “Streisand effect”. That sort of thing. What we’re looking for is a celebrity who was critically popular when he or she was new, fell into disrepute for a while, then experienced a renaissance of renown. Maybe John Travolta would be an example of this. Or Paul McCartney. Run-DMC. Who knows.

But make it up fast, so I can put it in this next sentence: “The 1977 GM B-body is experiencing a XXXXXX Effect lately.” It’s true. That platform was basically the best-selling full-size vehicle for every one of the 25-ish years it was available for sale. But only now, as the Panther falls into history and we start judging it on the merits rather than the singular merit of remaining on sale in showrooms, do we see how well-conceived that “downsized” car was. There’s a rising tide of B-body nostalgia, restoration interest, and classic-car cred.

And it’s interesting just how often a paean to the B-body will be followed by a coda expressing disdain for the A-body (later, when a front-wheel drive A-body arrived, reclassified as G-body) midsize sibling. Due mention will then be made of things like fixed rear windows on the sedans, the ungainly Aerobacks and the unnecessarily Baroque style of the coupes. If the writer really wants to hammer his point home, he’ll simply ask you, the reader, to compare the proportions of the two platforms. The B is sleek and elegant, whether in Caprice glassback coupe or faux-wood Pontiac Safari battlewagon form. The A/G, on the other hand, is ungainly and upright.

No man who could have driven a B of any badge should have settled for an A. But settle they did, and in numbers that increased as the late ’70s turned into the early ’80s. In fact, the shift from “B” to “A” wasn’t just massive; it was permanent and relevant even today. Hold on: I’ll show you.

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By on October 23, 2015


There’s a certain portion of America that doesn’t think that anything is real until Katie Couric tells them it’s so. I prefer Ms. Couric when she’s AutoTuned but the nice people at Michelin have other ideas. They’ve hired her to talk to teens about getting, and giving, good advice behind the wheel.

So, with the weekend ahead, let’s talk about advice, shall we?

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By on October 22, 2015


I got the call at about 6 p.m. last night. It was Greg Ledet, one of the fellows who partnered in our infamous April Fools’ Day cross-country hoax.

“I’m heading out to meet Alex Roy at a Tesla Supercharger near Dayton and clear traffic for him between here and Columbus. You want to go?”

“I’d love to,” was my unconvincing reply, “but I just had a bunch of screws drilled into my left tibia and every moment I stand up is an exciting battle between nausea and vertigo. However,” I added after a moment’s pause, rifling through my nightstand for the bottle marked Morphine EXPIRED!, “I could meet you south of Columbus for a few minutes.” Hopping down the stairs on one foot, I grabbed the keys to my Accord before anyone could object. “All I have to do is use this gimpy leg to push the clutch once in a while!” I yelled, while backing out in hop-skip-and-jump fashion.

Five minutes later I was back, tears streaming from behind my tinted-lens ProDesign frames. “If anybody wants to drive me to Grove City,” I conceded, “I’m buying dinner.”

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By on October 15, 2015


Don’t look now, but “Periscope” is officially a thing.

The social-media platform allows people to broadcast live from their phones whenever they like, thus bringing the average 23-year-old American woman just that much closer to her dream of becoming a fourth-rate reality television “star” at the expense of all other potential accomplishments.

I can see Periscope being of some use in the upcoming “American Spring” populist uprising, except for the fact that Twitter and Facebook and the like have long since decided to lick the boots of our corporate Ingsoc in whatever fashion is most deferentially pleasing to Mr. Obama, Mrs. Merkel, and Xi Jinping. So when the balloon goes up and you see me and Zack de la Rocha rolling a Viper ACR loaded with grenade launchers down the street, the Twitter “fail whale” will be all you can get, because anything else would be uncivilized.

The automotive world has used Periscope for a few new-vehicle reveals and a series of vignettes in which my friend Adam uses Turtle Wax™ to get some shine on his Isuzu Impulse. But it wasn’t until Whitney Beall of Lakeland … you guessed it … Florida, started Periscoping her drunk-driving adventure that the true potential of this newest navel-gazing “app” was well and truly revealed.

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By on October 14, 2015


Judging from the comments on my Beetle review, some of you clearly think I’m using this whole “shattered leg” thing as an excuse to just phone it in until I can obtain a prescription for Dilaudid and start writing the authentic Hunter S. Thompson psychedelia once again. Do not worry, my little kittens. Papa has heard your cries and I will do right by you in every particular. I have plenty of time to do so, since my injuries will keep me from having sex for at least four days, possibly five. Which for me is a long time, because as you know I like to get down whenever I can.

Let us begin thus: Yesterday, I was relaxing in pre-op, waiting for a bunch of screws made from the same material as my IWC Ingenieur Titanium to be placed in my second-favorite tibia, listening to “Last Train Home” from Metheny’s first “Brazilian” record, 1987’s Still Life Talking, when the young lady next to me said “Your phone’s buzzing. Maybe it’s important.” I recognized the number: a dedicated TTAC reader and occasional contributor with a definite fondness for Mitsubishis.

“I’d better take this,” I said, waving off the surgery team.

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By on October 8, 2015

This will likely come as a bit of a surprise to those of you who get your news through glass bottles tossed into the ocean and carried by persistent currents to the remote island on which you’ve been stranded by the crash of your FedEx plane, but Volkswagen is in a little bit of trouble […]

By on October 6, 2015


The autonomous vehicle is coming. Everybody says so. Or at least everybody who is paid to be optimistic about the fascist-corporate future of the Western World says so. Autonomous vehicles are already so safe that the only risks come from the imperfect humans surrounding them. The Times regularly fawns over the autonomous vehicle in the same vaguely insincere, Backpfeifengesicht-smirking way it concern-trolls about suicide-by-firearm. The problem, you see, is with all the people out there. They’re too stupid to drive a car or handle a gun and the only solution is for their betters in the $100M Manhattan condos and too-precious San-Fran Nob Hill homes to keep them dosed with soma and distracted with Centrifugal Bumblepuppy during the two and a half hours a day they’re not supposed to be either working in their ping-pong-table-equipped offices or sound asleep.

I’ve spent much of the past week reading about the near-perfect safety of the autonomous roadways of the future. As fate would have it, I spent much of the week before that driving a few hundred miles’ worth of fast back roads in an assortment of very fast sports cars. After spending some time considering what I’ve read and what I’ve been doing in a sort of holistic fashion, I’ve come to believe that the safety of autonomous vehicles, like many other technical and social issues in the United States, comes down to the story of the Country Mouse and the City Mouse.

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By on October 2, 2015


In 1996, Ford sold about 28,000 Broncos. This was the same year the Explorer finally cracked 400,000 units, the vast majority of them XLT trim or above, and each one carrying a healthy markup over the Rangers from which they were unashamedly derived.

The Ford dealership where Rodney and I worked sixty-five hours a week to earn thirty grand a year stocked at least four Medium Willow Green Explorers with the XLT 945A Popular Equipment Package (PEP 945A) at all times and sometimes even a Medium Willow Green Explorer XLT with the lowbrow, cloth-seat PEP 941A, but we did not, I repeat, we did not stock the Bronco. In fact, during my year at the dealership, I only saw two brand-new Broncos come on the lot.

There was a reason for that.

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By on September 29, 2015


This past Sunday night, I wandered over to my local movie theater to catch Black Mass. Although I’m suffering from a bit of Joel-Edgerton-related-ennui lately and I never really got over the idea of Hey, that’s Johnny Depp in makeup, I had to admit that overall, it was a tightly plotted and thoroughly entertaining film. More importantly, it had an absolutely killer lineup of Malaise-era automobiles, including an utterly stunning ’78 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight with a white leather interior. In fact, until the moment that a 1980 Citation makes an unexpected and rather violent appearance on the scene, it’s nothing but wall-to-wall Seventies sedans. Just the way I like it.

I remember that as a child my grandparents complained about the squared-off, generic appearance of pretty much everything for sale in the post-Nixon era. I can sympathize a bit because although every car sold in the Fifties also looked just like every other car for sale, the general template of the Bel Air/Fairlane/et al was appealing and colorful and optimistic. But even if you don’t care for the ’74 Malibu Classic or the ’79 Granada, at least they had proportions that emphasized width over height. The worst of them had a certain dignity.

Not so with today’s rolling toaster ovens. We’re rapidly approaching the era where every single car for sale will be some variant on the almighty CR-V. The latest sales data from Porsche and MINI simply hammer that home, with a uniquely depressing twist.

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  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Bark M., United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Doug DeMuro, United States
  • Steven Lang, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, United States
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States