Posts By: Jack Baruth

By on April 7, 2015


How much computing and “cloud” power do you need operate an autonomous vehicle across the country? How about the equivalent of a 486DX/2 and, um, none at all?
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By on March 31, 2015


Note: A bug in the GPS software inverted the overall and moving averages.

After this paragraph, you’ll have the chance to read nearly 6,300 words about the fastest transcontinental drive in history. Most of the important stuff is near the top; the rest of it is a detail-oriented interview with Alex for the community of fans across the country who live and die for this sort of thing. A personal disclaimer: In my opinion, having the “transcontinental record” is an accomplishment roughly on the same level as having the most awesome fox suit at a furry convention. But TTAC isn’t a charity. It’s a business. And we need those sweet, sweet clicks. Integrity? What’s that? — jb

“I’ve always said I’d never do this again, but as a minor Bond villain put it, never say never.”

So says Alex Roy – the Doctor Evil of illegal long-distance driving events. According to Roy, women want him, and men want to be him. According to actual women, he’s got a great scarf collection, and according to actual men, he’s got…a scarf collection. He’s the same bald, fast-talking New Yorker with a fetish for German police uniforms he’s always been. He’s also former Chairman of The Moth, and winner of the 2005 reality show The Ultimate Playboy. Love him or hate him, respect him or loathe him, the self-proclaimed anti-hero was single-handedly responsible for rekindling interest in the Cannonball Run when, back in 2006, he and co-driver David Maher shattered the 23-year old transcontinental record in 31 hours and 4 minutes. That story was told in Roy’s 2007 book The Driver – which he wrote himself and I reviewed somewhat negatively – and the interviews Roy couldn’t stop giving until…

…used-Lamborghini salesman Ed Bolian and two other dudes strapped their bedpans to a raggedy old CL55 chock-full of leaking gasoline and bombed across the same route in 28 hours and 50 minutes.

For nine years, Roy had sworn that he’d let the record stand or fall as fate decreed — but like his spiritual guide Wotan, Alex was unwilling to let someone else sit upon the porcelain throne of Cannonball Valhalla. So he conceived of Projekt Panzernashorn (Rhinoceros), a cost-no-object plan to set the bar too high for even the most aggressively-catheterized to reach.

Along with a hand-picked group of journalists, hangers-on, and gold-digging New York actress/models, I was permitted to observe Alex as he basically pissed away the kind of money that would let you run for THREE YEARS IN THE TUDOR SERIES WHICH IS A REAL RACE in order to snatch the record back.

This is the story.

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By on March 30, 2015


It’s 10:33AM, Monday, 30 March 2015. I’m at an undisclosed but very pricey location in Greater Los Angeles. Three very tired and irritable men are watching me watch a very long and mostly mind-numbing video.

And yes, we’re all wearing pants.

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By on March 30, 2015

The first-generation Cadillac Escalade was a breathtaking statement of contempt for the American automobile buyer, differing from the GMC Yukon Denali in only the most minor, British-Leyland-style details, but in the years that followed General Motors has worked steadily to distance this Chevrolet Silverado 1500 derivative from all its other Chevrolet Silverado 1500 derivatives. This […]

By on March 25, 2015


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


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


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 […]

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  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, United States
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States
  • J Emerson, United States