Posts By: Ronnie Schreiber

By on September 12, 2017

irmatireiron

We live in polarized times, when acknowledging the existence of one group of evil people is considered to be a defense of a second group of evil people that the first group of bad actors consider their enemies. Some folks have trouble holding the concept that it is possible to despise both sides of a controversy, without having to identify with this or that tribe. I dislike having to use caveats in my writing but let me say at the outset that I think that people and businesses should not unduly take advantage of situations during natural disasters and other catastrophes.

We’ve seen a lot of inspirational stories out of Texas and Florida in the literal wake of two mammoth storms. We’ve also seen some price gouging and looting. Catastrophes bring out the worst and best in both those that are directly affected, and in those who observe from afar.

A couple of Florida car dealers, in Hollywood and further north in Tallahassee, decided to shelter their inventories from Hurricane Irma in public parking structures made available to residents trying to keep their personal vehicles above flood waters (and somewhat protected from flying debris). The dealers may have protected their vehicles from Irma, but that didn’t protect them from a storm of bad publicity. Every car those dealers parked in those structures meant someone’s daily driver couldn’t be saved from the maelstrom. (Read More…)

By on September 11, 2017
1963 TVR Grantura Mk III

1963 TVR Grantura Mk III

There is the obscure, and then there is the arcane. When the revival of TVR was announced, with a grand touring car based on Gordon Murray’s iStream manufacturing technology, it is likely that more contemporary car enthusiasts were familiar with Murray than with TVR. Even most car enthusiasts have never heard of the marque. TVR is a specialist British sports-car maker that’s been around since the early 1950s. Over the years they’ve managed to produce a few thousand fiberglass-bodied cars with quirky styling, confusing names, and a passionate following despite repeated bankruptcies and numerous changes of management and ownership. Founder Trevor Wilkinson left the company in the mid 1960s, though the company retained its name, based on the letters of his first name. (Read More…)

By on September 7, 2017

youtube_screenshot

The fun and games stop being fun when stuff gets real. Nothing is as real as death.

Not long ago we featured a story about a fatal incident on Detroit’s east side, the result of two fellows street racing a motorcycle against a go-kart. More recently, a Michigan State Trooper has been suspended pending Detroit Police and Michigan State Police investigations of an Aug. 26 incident resulting in the death of a 15-year-old male riding an ATV on a public street. The trooper used a taser on the youth, from his moving cruiser, after the teen allegedly refused to pull over. After being tased, Demond Grimes crashed his ATV into a pickup truck. He died after being taken to a hospital. (Read More…)

By on August 30, 2017

AMC Eagle (public domain)

Roy Lunn passed away recently at the age of 92, not long after being named to the Automotive Hall of Fame. The name may be unfamiliar, but any one of his manifold achievements probably would have merited inclusion in that august institution.

Lunn was in charge of creating the Aston Martin DB2, progenitor to the James Bond cars. Moving to Ford, he had a seminal role in the development of the Anglia 105-E, Ford’s first postwar hit in Europe and the foundation of much of the brand’s later success on the continent. At Dearborn he engineered the first Mustang concept and was then put in charge of Ford Motor Company’s all-out assault on Ferrari at LeMans with the GT40, developments of which won that race four years in a row.

With LeMans conquered, he became chief engineer at American Motors, going from a virtually unlimited budget with Ford Racing to having to turn AMC’s pigs ears into silk purses, and come in at budget, too. At American Motors, Lunn helped make the original XJ Cherokee arguably the most durable American vehicle ever made.

Lunn didn’t know it at the time, but he also invented what we today call the crossover, or CUV — the UV standing for Utility Vehicle, not ultraviolet. In a sentence, a crossover is a vehicle based on a passenger car but with more ground clearance, a long, station wagon-like roofline, a rear hatch, and some kind of drive system that puts motive force at all four wheels. (Read More…)

By on August 25, 2017

lincolndavis

When considering the way some folks apply modern values to historical personages and events, I often think of two historical truths from the world of fiction. William Faulkner gave us, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” while L.P. Hartley opened his novel The Go-Between with, “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”

History resonates and rhymes, but things do change.

In America we are currently having a raging debate over whether or not prior remembrances of the past will be effaced because the people remembered were flawed human beings who, in some cases, embraced causes or beliefs many people today consider to be odious. Most recently, Charlottesville, Virginia, has been ground zero for the controversy, with extremists latching on to the issue — resulting in a horrific vehicular homicide.

Peripherally to the events in Chalottesville, the city council of Alexandria, Virginia, has voted to rename the section of the Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway that travels through their city.

How that road got named after the president of the Confederate States of America more than a century ago — and nearly 50 years after the end of the Civil War — is an interesting exploration into culture, race, and the history of transportation in America. (Read More…)

By on August 21, 2017

go-kart-wreck-kart

As long as there are going to be vehicles that are still under human control, there will be street racing. It’s not safe, it’s not very smart, and it’s not going to go away anytime soon. Detroit Police Chief James Craig says that his department tracks as many as 500 street races some nights. The racing usually take place at 2 or 3 in the morning on weekends. The police can track them because street racers, like police officers, are creatures of habit.

French Road, on Detroit’s northeast side, has long been used as a dragstrip by outlaws racing cars, trucks, and motorcycles. (Read More…)

By on August 10, 2017

elio-otc-chart

The past year hasn’t been particularly kind to Elio Motors, the startup trying to launch an economical enclosed-tandem, front-wheel drive three-wheeler. The company seems to be no closer to starting production and in fact has shuttered most of their operations, including assembly of their production-validation prototypes, and laid off most of their staff, to concentrate on raising the money they need to start building trikes.

For a while Elio was flying high. They had over 60,000 reservations and a Reg A+ stock offering raised $16 million. That stock quadrupled in price and briefly gave the company a billion-dollar valuation. Then, starting late in 2016, a pattern started forming. Some kind of bad news for Elio would appear on folks’ screens, either another production delay, a SEC filing with ominous-sounding boilerplate, or local politicians in Louisiana, where Elio promised to start building vehicles in what was formerly a GM assembly plant in Shreveport, would start complaining about a lack of progress. The bad news would get amplified by Elio’s critics, and their over-the-counter stock price would take a hit. A year ago the OTC shares were pretty stable at around $20/share. Down from the high of $60, but still significantly above the initial offering price of $14/share. By the end of 2016, however, it had dropped to about $15/share and since then it’s had a series of drops to about $8, then $7 and most recently about $5/share. Elio seemed headed for penny-stock status, or worse.

(Read More…)

By on August 9, 2017

presidio-terrace-malin-giddings

This is one of those stories that is bound to provoke a range of emotions. It involves a homeowners’ association, rich and powerful property owners, real-estate speculators and parking. None of those first three are likely to engender sympathy but in this case you sort of have to root for the little guys, the speculators.

San Francisco has some of the most expensive real estate in the United States. Pacific Heights is one of the more exclusive neighborhoods in San Fran and Presidio Terrace, a gated, guarded, private street is one of the priciest locations in that area. It’s across the street from the private Presidio Golf & Concordia Club. Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi used to live on the circular street, as has Sen. Diane Feinstein. When one of the 35 mansions on Presidio Terrace go on the market, they fetch big money. There’s a house currently listed for $14.9 million dollars.

(Read More…)

By on August 7, 2017

mercury commuter

I’m old enough to remember when the word “minivan” didn’t exist, when American *moms drove carpools and kids to piano lessons in sedans and station wagons. Styles, tastes, and social conventions change, though. Over the decades we saw how Chrysler’s introduction of the front-wheel drive minivan, CAFE standards that favored light trucks, and women discovering that they liked sitting up high in traffic, have changed the American families’ fleet.

Due, in no small part, to consumers’ zeal to keep their mommymobiles from having the stigma of mommymobiles, we’ve seen the family “car” go from wagon, to minivan, to truck-based SUVs (which, much to those consumers’ dismay actually rode like trucks), to high-waisted passenger-car based crossovers. It’s not just the American fleet, either. CUVs are popular worldwide.

(Read More…)

By on July 28, 2017

price-car-2-874x800

When Jared Price tooled through a small town on Monday in a Lincoln Town Car missing all four doors, bereft of any license plate, and with a gaping hole where the windshield was supposed to be (but equipped with an axe embedded, Excalibur style, in the roof) it’s not surprising the local sheriff’s department received a report of a “suspicious vehicle.” (Read More…)

By on May 9, 2017

paul-elio

As TTAC reported recently, Elio Motors disclosed in its most recent annual report to the Securities and Exchange Commission it needs an additional $64 million to begin series production of its first vehicle at a former General Motors assembly plant in Shreveport, Louisiana. This is on top of the $312 million it previously stated it required to bring the high-mileage trike to reality.

That isn’t the worst news.

In the filing, Elio Motors announced it was laying off sales and engineering personnel to conserve resources as it focused on securing more financing, primarily through the sale of stock and taking on more debt. An unnamed vendor is also in a payment dispute with Elio Motors, and the company is running a $100+ million deficit.

“Sure, there’s bad news,” Elio said on a phone call with TTAC, “but there’s also good news in the annual report that people are ignoring.”

(Read More…)

By on April 28, 2017

NanoCar Race Poster

Tata’s Nano is a very small car, but it’s more than brobdingnagian compared to the vehicles racing this weekend in Toulouse, France.

The first international nanocar race — organized by the materials scientists at Centre Nationnal de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and its Centre d’Elaboration de Matériaux et d’Etudes Structurales (CEMES) — brings motorsports down to the molecular level. Four teams will compete under the observation of a special, four-tipped scanning tunneling microscope on a racecourse made of gold atoms just 100 nanometers long.

(Read More…)

By on March 9, 2017

john goodenough the truth about cars
One of the factors holding back widespread acceptance of electric vehicles has been the development of battery storage. Until now, there has been nothing analogous for batteries to the computing industry’s Moore’s Law, which has seen integrated circuits become significantly more powerful, faster, and cheaper with each generation. While there have been incremental improvements in energy density — the primary drawback to battery power — a number of promising new battery technologies have not panned out.

Now, a research team headed by John Goodenough, whose 1980 invention of a cobalt-oxide cathode made powerful lithium-ion batteries possible, has announced the development of a solid-state battery cell that not only has the potential (no pun intended) to store three times as much power as a conventional lithium-ion cell, but also replaces the cells’ liquid electrolytes with a glass compound. That would eliminate the fire and explosion hazard known to Li-ion power packs. (Read More…)

By on March 9, 2017

vwgticrushed-by-tree-close-up

If you live in the Upper Midwest or in southern Ontario, this won’t come as news to you: one of the worst windstorms in the region’s history swept through on Wednesday. Wind gusts of up to 68 miles per hour were recorded in the Detroit area. In southeastern Michigan alone, over 800,000 households and businesses were without electrical power after winds tore down trees and utility lines.

Fortunately for Lincoln Russell, who lives in Detroit’s Westbridge neighborhood, he was in Montreal when the storm blew through town. Unfortunately for Mr. Russell, he also left his dearly beloved 2007 Fahrenheit Edition Volkswagen GTI parked on the street back home. Shortly after noon, the high winds apparently encouraged a large tree with a trunk about three feet in diameter to make like one of Tolkein’s Ents and try to cross the street. Unlike Middle Earth’s traveling topiary, Detroit’s trees are not supernatural and this one came tumbling down, crushing Russell’s GTI and nearly knocking down a utility pole in the process. (Read More…)

By on March 8, 2017

Elon Musk + Tesla Model S Circa 2011

Perhaps you’ve noticed, by its absence, that there isn’t any advertising for Tesla products. Elon Musk is pretty good at generating buzz without having to pay for it. For example, a number of media organizations recently ran the news that Musk took the advice given to him by a fifth-grade girl — via her dad’s Twitter account — on how to publicize his electric cars.

Bria Loveday had a school assignment involving writing and mailing a letter to a noted person and, the way the story goes, she chose Musk. In her letter she noted that while Tesla doesn’t advertise, a number of Tesla enthusiasts have produced their own entertaining commercials for the EV maker, and Bria suggested that Tesla hold a contest for the best one. The winner would get his or her ad aired and then receive some kind of prize like a free year’s worth of supercharging at a Tesla station. (Read More…)

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