This year, two documentaries concerning serial automotive entrepreneur Malcolm Bricklin have been released. Coincidentally, both of them were the products of sons whose fathers were part of the story they were telling. First, after four years of sitting completed, in the can so to speak, The Entrepreneur, filmed and directed by Bricklin’s son Jonathan, with an executive producer’s credit to Supersize Me‘s Morgan Spurlock, was finally released this past summer for public viewing.
Category: Product Reviews
Regular readers of TTAC already saw Justin Wheels Crenshaw and W Christian Mental Ward had a chance to attend the Abu Dhabi Drift School where the RWD Toyota GT-86 is the car of choice.
Buckle your seatbelts folks; we’re firing up the wayback machine. Last week I had the privilege of attending the Yas Island Drift School with none other than Justin “Wheels” Crenshaw. I have actually known Justin for a few years now, back when he was juggling press loaners and writing for TTAC, while I had no idea this site existed. He helped me with this story, as well as editing it, so hopefully he saved Baruth some stress and the B&B some frustration with my tenuous language skills.
You may have heard that there’s a movie about car racing coming out. For dramatic tension it’s based on the real life story of two drivers, competing when the sport was very dangerous, whose relationship went from rivalry to respect to a deep friendship. Actually, there are two movies like that coming out. You’re probably more familiar with director Ron Howard’s $100 million F1 epic, Rush, which opens on Sept. 20th and centers on the competition between Niki Lauda and the late James Hunt. Made for about one tenth of that, and opening Sept. 9th is Snake and Mongoo$e, about drag racers Don Prudhomme and Tom McEwen. Snake and Mongoo$e had its worldwide premiere last weekend in conjunction with Reno’s Hot August Nights cruise festivities that included a Barrett-Jackson car auction. With a million and a half car lovers congregating this weekend on Woodward for the Dream Cruise, the producers decided to have a Detroit premiere as well, and the film will be screened at the Palladium in Birmingham all weekend long.
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Lately, in no small part due to Michael Moore, the “documentary” film has become the carborundum upon which filmmakers from a variety of perspectives have ground their own axes and then proceeded to chop down the subject of their films. It’s nice, then, to see a documentary made that exhibits some affection for the subject. Wagonmasters, a film made by Chris Zaluski and Sam Smartt as part of their work for MFAs from Wake Forest University’s Documentary Film Program, looks at the great American station wagon with affection. Wistful affection for the now disappeared suburban icon of Americana, but affection nonetheless. Read More >
Everybody wants a deal. But precious few people are willing to change their habits to make their deal last longer.
Don’t you sometimes want more attention? Aching to simply blow people away? The people at Banshee Horn LLC might just have the thing for people who want to be noticed. It is called the Banshee Horn, and it does what the name says. The folks promise in an email to TTAC that the gadget helps you “warn motorists up to 3 blocks away” with a pain-inducing 139 decibel horn. Read More >
Have you heard the old joke about the three Jewish engineers and Henry Ford? This is the version at Snopes.com:
It was a sweltering August day in 1937 when the 3 Cohen brothers entered the posh Dearborn, Michigan, offices of Henry Ford, the car maker.
“Mr. Ford”, announced Norman Cohen, the eldest of the three. “We have a remarkable invention that will revolutionize the automobile industry.”
Ford looked skeptical, but their threat to offer it to the competition kept his interest piqued. “We would like to demonstrate it to you in person”, said Norman.
After a little cajoling, they brought Mr. Ford outside and asked him to enter a black automobile parked in front of the building. Hyman Cohen, the middle brother, opened the door of the car. “Please step inside, Mr. Ford.”
“What!” shouted the tycoon, “Are you crazy? It’s over a hundred degrees in that car!”
“It is”, smiled the youngest brother, Max.; but sit down Mr. Ford, and push the white button.
Intrigued, Ford pushed the button. All of a sudden a whoosh of freezing air started blowing from vents all around the car, and within seconds the automobile was not only comfortable, it was quite cool.
“This is amazing!” exclaimed Ford. “How much do you want for the patent?’
One of the brothers spoke up: “The price is One Million Dollars.” Then he paused.
“And there is something else. The name ‘Cohen Brothers Air Conditioning’ must be stamped right next to the Ford logo on the dash board!”
“Money is no problem,” retorted Ford,” but there is no way I will have a Jewish name next to my logo on my cars!”
They haggled back and forth for a while and finally they settled. Five Million Dollars, and the Cohens’ name would be left off. However, the first names of the Cohen brothers would be forever emblazoned upon the console of every Ford air conditioning system.
And that is why even today, whenever you enter a Ford vehicle, you see those three names clearly printed on the air conditioning control panel……….NORM, HI and MAX
The story isn’t even apocryphal. Except for the part about Ford’s Jew-hatred it’s complete fiction. Willis Carrier invented refrigerant air conditioning and Packard, not Ford, was the first automaker to offer it in a car.
Now, though, did you hear the one about the Jewish engineer that invented the Volkswagen? Actually, that story isn’t a joke, and it’s not fiction, or at least a persuasive case can be made that it’s true.
It’s that time of year, with the clock ticking on your shopping for Hanukkah/Christmas/Kwanzaa and the ease of buying books online makes them such low-hassle gifts. You want to give that special car-freak on your gift list a nice coffee-table book, but everybody’s coffee table seems to be creaking beneath the weight of books full of photos of gleaming classic/exotic cars. Boring! The solution: this book full of photos of abandoned cars! Read More >
“In the end, it was all about the car—designing, engineering, assembling, and selling a product that consumers wanted to own and drive.” So observes Bill Vlasic near the end of Once Upon a Car, his 379-page account of the recent “fall and resurrection” of the Detroit car manufacturers. Vlasic’s book is quite late to the party, following other journalistic accounts by Alex Taylor III and Paul Ingrassia and insider accounts by Steve Rattner and Bob Lutz. Can it possibly offer anything new? Is it worth reading? Yes, and yes. Yet Vlasic’s book also shares a fundamental weakness with the others, one all the more damning because of the above observation.
Never assume that press accounts of what’s going on inside the auto companies resembles what’s actually going on. For my Ph.D. thesis, I inhabited General Motors’s product development organization much like an anthropologist might inhabit a Third World village. What I observed during my year-and-a-half on the inside bore virtually no resemblance to what I read in the automotive press. Journalists aren’t inside the companies, have contact with select high-level insiders, and tend to print the PR-approved accounts these insiders provide. These accounts reflect how senior executives want outsiders to think the organization operates and performs much more than how it actually does. To the extent journalists know the reality—and few do any digging—they rarely print it. So I’ve refrained from even guessing at what’s been going on inside GM. Instead, I’ve been hoping that some insider would write an insightful account of the eventful past 10 to 15 years. None have, until ex-vice chairman Bob Lutz’s new book, Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: the Battle for the Soul of American Business. Lutz has a reputation for speaking his mind and straight shooting. What does his book tell us about what really went on inside GM?
As promised yesterday, my review of Michael Dunne’s American Wheels Chinese Roads: The Story of General Motors in China is now live at the Wall Street Journal website [sub] as well as today’s print edition. Be sure to pick up a copy and stay tuned for TTAC’s own review of this important book, by our man in China, Bertel Schmitt.
I was just a pre-licensed car nut when the July 1994 issue of Car and Driver passed along the news of Ayrton Senna’s death. Brock Yates’ column in that issue said, “In a sad way, Ayrton Senna’s death dignifies motor racing…He did not die in vain, but rather he made the ultimate sacrifice in seeking his own personally mandated pinnacle of achievement. Tragically, ironically, he may serve his chosen profession more in death than life.” This meant nothing to me at the time. But it means something now.