I hear the SEMA show was last week. You know the SEMA show, right? It’s that important aftermarket manufacturers’ show held each autumn in Las Vegas where various companies try to pitch their products to customizers and retailers. Like all good automotive trade shows, SEMA features hundreds of companies and dozens upon dozens of custom vehicles. The fancy, hand-built cars draw people to the displays and form a pretty canvas on which a company can display its wares. But like any fashion show there is a hidden truth. The special parts on this or that big-name builder’s hot rod won’t have the same effect on your own, more mundane vehicle. No, for most of us beauty is an illusion; the phrase “lipstick on a pig” exists for a reason. Read More >
My 1974 Nova was as utilitarian as they come. It was a low optioned base model with a 250 CID inline six mounting a one barrel carb and backed by a three speed manual with a column mounted shift lever. It had so few options that on the inside it had a rubber floors, vinyl seats and a pegboard for a headliner. Outside there was no decoration, nary a pinstripe nor so much as a strip of trim to protect the car’s flanks from door dings. It was a plain, gutless, spiritless little car that inspired no passion or love from anyone other than the 17 year old boy who owned it. To me it was, and still is, one of the greatest cars ever built. Read More >
Today, my wacky morning DJ, right after he said democracy was a joke and called me “dude,” hit us with this fun fact: 39% of young people choose the same brand of car their parents drove. I’m not sure if that is impressive as the previous day’s fact, that 20 million pounds of candy corn are sold annually in the United States, but it made me think about my father’s preference in vehicles and whether or not I had followed suit. Despite the fact that my old man had pretty good taste in cars, the answer, oddly enough, is “no.” Read More >
So I read earlier this week that Bob Lutz is saying that the US Government killed Pontiac. He says that GM had big plans to rescue the struggling brand with innovative, rear-wheel designs that included small performance cars that would have set the Germans back on their heels. Had these plans come to fruition, he hints, enthusiasts would have been busting down the doors and the brand would have quickly returned to good health. Sounds like new golden age for Pontiac was just around the corner. And it would have worked too, if it weren’t for those meddling Feds. That’s what Bob says anyhow, but I’m not so sure. The way I remember it, I had a hand in killing Pontiac, too. Read More >
Ah, the good old days. A time when smartphones were just PDA’s with hormone imbalances.
A time of basic cell phones, brick-thick cameras, and camcorders barely big enough to require a hand strap.
I remember all this old tech like it was yesterday, and for one simple reason: I still used all of them until recently.
My dad freaked out. We weren’t going that fast when the old dump truck struggled out onto the road some distance ahead of us and it was a simple matter to just let off the gas and coast for a bit while the old truck worked its way up through the gears to the posted 35mph limit. The road in front of the construction site was a mess of mud and gravel and although I am sure my father didn’t appreciate the muddy spray on the otherwise clean flanks of his Delta 88, he seemed rather unbothered about the whole event – at least until we finally closed the distance and drew up behind the big truck. It was then he read the scene in front of him and jumped hard on the brakes. As the old truck rumbled away he turned to me and asked “Did you see that?” Read More >
I’ve let myself go over the years. No, I’m not talking about the almost 100 pounds I have gained since I left hallowed halls of Snohomish High School almost 30 years ago, I’m talking about my driving habits. 10 and 2 has slipped to 7 and crotch, with crotch occasionally slipping to 6 to steady the wheel while 7 moves around for added leverage. Know what I mean? I know you do… Read More >
Long, low and impossibly red, the TR6 was unlike any car I had ever seen. Despite an endless supply of tight, winding roads Snohomish Washington has never been “sports car” country. When my brother’s friend John showed up with the Triumph, it made a hell of an impression. John was a nice guy and that’s saying a lot, honestly, because when you are a little kid, most of your older brothers’ friends don’t even bother to give you the time of day. But John was different. Tall, with movie-star good looks, he could have been a snob but he just wasn’t wired that way. Maybe that’s why the old car fit him so well. It was sporty and good-looking to be sure, but it was also restrained and somehow more approachable than its higher strung brethren. Naturally, I asked if I could drive it. Read More >
Like so many broken down old cars, the old Plymouth sat forlorn and alone at the far edge of the driveway. Even from a distance, it looked like it was a mess, its green paint was peeling away and the hood, which for some reason had a flat black square in the middle, was entirely oxidized. Up close I could see that the interior was just as bad as the exterior. The dash pad was totally cooked and the vinyl seats had split wide open along their seams. My buddy Rick, however, insisted the car was cool and to prove his point he raised the hood to show me a tired old engine that he insisted was a 383 big block. I looked it over, noting the four barrel Holley double pumper without an air cleaner and the unpainted valve covers that had leaked an impressive amount of dirty black oil over the years, and tried to find something to be positive about. Finally I found it, bolted to the inner fender was a splash of faded purple and a sticker featuring a cartoon character. Its text proclaimed “Voice of the Roadrunner” and I knew in an instant, with all the certainty that 19 years of life experience had given me, that my friend had been right all along. Read More >
When I was around six years old someone told me girls were icky. I’m not going to lie and say that I have ever completely overcome that. Four decades later I can tell you that for the most part girls are OK, but on some levels they remain strange, unknowable creatures. To attempt to understand them is to flirt with madness. They like things I could never like, “The Real Housewives,” cats, and leafy green vegetables are just a few examples and, what is worse, they have the expectation that if they bring these things into the home that I will somehow learn to like them too. In the 1970s, marketers discovered that women wield a considerable amount of control over the household finances and they began to target of their ads directly at them. They also began to introduce a lot of products intended specifically to appeal to women and, although it is acceptable for a woman to purchase products not specifically aimed at them, it is a major mistake for a guy to ever buy something aimed at the female market. Picked up a box of tampons for your wife at the drug store lately? Then you know the shame involved. So, listen up now, this is the important part – the car companies are targeting our women folk and if you aren’t careful, you might just end up driving a “girls’ car.”
The Thanksgiving leftovers are still on the table when the Christmas tree goes up at the Kreutzer house. Wherever we go in the world I am determined that some traditions will survive and Christmas is one of the constants that my children can count upon no matter how hard it might be for Santa to find us some years. We have a fair amount of decorations, mostly indoor stuff, and when the season has ended I usually spend New Year’s Day pulling everything down and carefully wrapping each piece in its own individual piece of newspaper. The newspaper wrapping is just as important to me as the decorations themselves because I know that in the years to come, those crumpled bits of newsprint will become little time capsules that will show where we were and what we thought was important. One thing I am always sure to include are the car ads.
The first rays of the morning sun painted the predawn sky in glorious hues of orange and yellow as Bill stepped out of the house and took a deep breath of the cool pine scented air. He paused for a moment on his porch and took a sip of hot coffee from the large plastic travel cup he habitually carried when he had to be up early and surveyed the scene. To the East the Cascades rose up high and rugged against the sky, the sun on their far side striking a line of fire upon the barren rock at their uppermost rim, their flanks clad in a sea of evergreens split by the straight line of the occasional roadway and large barren squares where the loggers had been at work harvesting the bounty of the forest. As unsightly as the scarred tracts of land looked the trees would return in time, Bill knew. The mountains were eternal.
In the next couple of days Autumn will officially begin. For most of us, however, Summer ended back on Labor Day, that final day of freedom before kids all over the country had to get up early, stuff their new school supplies into their backpacks and board those big yellow nuisances to all of us who have a daily commute. Anyone with kids, kids, kids is tied to home so, for all but a privileged few, the season of great cross country road trips is at an end.
Sometime around 1977, the little orange Opel Kadette wagon that had carried the Stork family through the lean times of the Arab oil embargo disappeared from its place above the truly enormous oil stain on their carport and a midsize Chevrolet two door arrived. The kids in our neighborhood were unimpressed. It was, to our eyes, just another in the long line of well used cars that Wayne had brought home and, while we had all hoped he would bring home something cool, we were disappointed that he had chosen a Chevelle. They were quite literally everywhere, most often driven by little old ladies who plowed the country roads below the posted 35 mph limit, and as such could not possibly be of interest to us. Even if it did have white racing stripes and a bulging hood with a little flapping door that opened and closed when you stepped on the gas, we were all in agreement that Wayne’s most recent choice was a total disappointment.
The number 42 Dodge Charger was running well. Although it had qualified in 9th position with a top speed of only 177 miles per hour, during the race it was clocked as high as 188 miles per hour and its driver, an amateur racer who made his living singing cowboy ballads at the Grand Ole Opry, was really mixing it up with the professional drivers. The Winston 500 was a big deal and, as one of the premier NASCAR races, there as a lot at stake. Talladega was one of those legendary places that captured the imagination and the attention of every race fan in the nation was focused on the event. For older, more experienced drivers a good performance meant job security while for the new guys, like Darrell Waltrip who was making his first ever Sprint Cup start in the race, a good performance could mark a man out from his peers and maybe garner the attention of one of the big teams. Given the expense, the effort, and the experience that it took to even field a car in the race, how was it that a country and western singer in a car paid for mostly out of his own pocket could be running so well? The answer is simple, he was cheating. Read More >