The Truth About Cars » music The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 18 Jul 2014 16:16:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » music Car Wreck Humor, 1904 Style: Is That My Eye On the Dashboard? No, That’s One Of My Ears! Wed, 13 Mar 2013 16:00:17 +0000 These days, with the nanny-state enforcers of IngSoc and Agenda 21 mandating 3,000 pounds of safety gear on each new motor vehicle, it’s refreshing to hear that folks in the very early days of motoring got some good yuks out of the idea of impalement on the tiller of a curved-dash Olds. We’ve dug up this 1904 Cal Stewart recording of “Uncle Josh In An Automobile” to demonstrate.

Yes, those “benzene buggies” and “kerosene wagons” seemed like intergalactic starships back 109 years ago, and a scratchy 78 was the state-of-the-art medium for pop-culture commentary on the subject. Thanks to for the music!

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Harry Belafonte’s Kids Sing Olds Troféo-ized Version of Dad’s Big Hit, Civilization Collapses Fri, 20 Apr 2012 15:00:30 +0000 After creating today’s Oldsmobile Toronado Troféo Junkyard Find, it becomes my duty to share one of the most brain-scrambling examples of the “What Could GM Have Been Thinking?” genre of car commercials. Yes, it’s a version of Harry Belafonte‘s “Banana Boat Song,” with “Tro-FE-oh” replacing the famous “DAY-oh,” and sung by Belafonte’s offspring.

Let’s study the new lyrics:

It’s a new generation and we want a new Olds.
Sequential port fuel injection, anti-lock brakes,
(?) come and they want a new Olds.
Visual Information Center, handles great.
This Oldsmobile is not our father’s,
New generation for the sons and daughters.
This is the new generation of Oldsmobile.

It’s hard to figure out what GM had in mind here. If the idea was to pitch the Troféo to younger buyers considering a Detroit alternative to European marques, why use a song that was a hit in 1956? If the idea was to woo Oldmobile’s traditional purchaser demographic (i.e., grumpy octogenarians in the Upper Midwest), why use a song by a well-known Civil Rights-era activist and all-around opponent of American foreign policy, who was loathed like Satan by 99 and many more nines percent of grumpy Midwestern octogenarians? Hey, maybe they’ll buy a Reatta!

Let’s check out another Olds ad from the same era featuring equally an equally C-list celebrity. Quick, someone put that marque out of its misery!

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When You Need Garage Tunes Right Now: Field Expedient Surround-Sound Audio System Sun, 19 Feb 2012 20:20:23 +0000 When I moved into a Victorian near downtown Denver summer before last, I finally had something I’ve been longing for since I started messing around with cars: a garage! Since that time, I’ve been (very) gradually upgrading the place, with better wiring, insulation, beer signs, and so on. My long-term plan for the place involves an elaborate garage audio system, with a serious amp, good speakers all over the place, and a CAT5 line to the house that will provide access to the music collection on my file server. However, my long-term garage-upgrade plan also includes certain items that have higher priority— like, say, a source of heat— and I have been working on those items first. In the meantime, I needed to be able to listen to The Atomic Bitchwax at top volume, and I didn’t want to spend any money on temporary measures. One afternoon, I scavenged up the gear to make an extremely loud four-speaker setup. Here’s how.
I had a pretty serious boombox already, in the form of the 92-pound Turbo II Junkyard Boogaloo Boombox that I built out of plywood and car parts a few years back (go to the Murilee’s Greatest Hits page for the whole Junkyard Boogaloo Boombox saga). It had been just the thing for tailgate parties at Oakland A’s games, but the battery I’d scavenged out of a junkyard-bound Tercel in 2006 had lost the ability to take a charge by the time I hauled it to Denver, and it would be an all-weekend thrash to dismantle the thing and replace the battery. Hmmm… how to solve that problem today?
Easy— just add a battery charger to the crap sitting atop my pinball machine restoration project.
The Junkyard Boogaloo Boombox charges via this PVC-pipe-based adapter that plugs into one of the cigarette lighters. The charging adapter was never meant to be used in a permanent setup, but it works.
OK, so the battery charger leads clamp onto the charging adapter and the boombox now has Wanky the Safety Cat™ approval (provided I remember to unplug the battery charger when not in use).
At that point, I had music… but the junkyard-correct Chevy Beretta cassette deck and ’93 Mercury Grand Marquis 6x9s didn’t deliver enough thump for my favorite Ice-T tracks. How can I improve the situation without leaving the garage?
The cassette and 8-track players were hardwired in and it would be a supreme pain in the ass to add more amps and speakers to them, but the Junkyard Boogaloo Boombox features a wired FM modulator to allow the use of external sound sources through the cassette deck. That means I can use the same iPod I use for the LeMons Macho Man penalty… and it also means that the signal from the iPod can be split and fed into another means of amplification.
From my days in the industro-noise band Murilee Arraiac, hooking up shortwave radios through chains of OD-1 overdrive pedals and so forth, I have every imaginable audio-cable adapter. Putting a one-into-two 1/8″ jack adapter on the iPod was easy, and led to…
…this 900 MHz audio transmitter, which sends its signal to…
…this pair of RCA wireless stereo speakers, which I got at a yard sale and had been storing with a lot of other random crap in a box for quite a while. Every bit of this gear was available right there in the garage. It’s what the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™ refers to as Ghetto Surround Sound 4.0™.
I had to do a little rearranging of power outlets to feed everything, but it all sorted out in typical garage-octopus fashion.
So now I can crank up the Gotan Project loud enough to share with the whole neighborhood, and I didn’t have to buy anything. Wanky approves!

9 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 1 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 2 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 3 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 4 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 5 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 6 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 7 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 8 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 11 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 10 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 12 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 13 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 21
Ask The Best And Brightest: What Will Replace Maybach As The Rapper’s Car Of Choice Mon, 16 Jan 2012 19:00:30 +0000

Jay-Z may have been the biggest celebrity booster (certainly TTAC wasn’t) of the Maybach line, but the brand’s demise is going to leave Hov high and dry for new wheels. So will Hov go back to the Lexus GS that he started out with? Probably not. It’s up to the Best and Brightest to determine what will take Maybach’s place in the whip game. Perhaps something British?

Among the next candidates variously mentioned were Bentley and Rolls-Royce. But as Gucci Mane rapped this year “I coulda bought a Phantom and rolled four deeper/but I’d rather pull up solo in the yellow two-seater.”

Even though two-seat Italian exotics are growing in popularity among the hip-hop set, they lack the ability to carry a crew of your boys; or an equal number of shapely video girls. A regression to the S-Class or the 7-Series won’t do either, with such cars being the minimum required to be taken seriously as a “baller”. The Chrysler 300 had a stint as a low-cost alternative to a six-figure European sedan, but ultimately lost out to more expensive hardware. No amount of panache can withstand the stigma of a sub-$100k sticker price.

I’d like tohumbly suggest the Jaguar XJ as a possible alternative; the Maserati Quattroporte seems to have found favor among a number of rappers, and I personally think the big Brit barge is exponentially better than the Maser. Alex Dykes already evaluated the XJL Supersport, but as TTAC readers know, what we enthusiasts like doesn’t always mesh with what the rest of the world thinks. Back in August, I had an XJL Supersport for a week, and the Jag won praise from my friends Hyghly and Lamar, who have shot two of Drake’s most recent videos and done the artwork for The Weeknd’s trilogy of albums. The mahogany/mirrored rear-seat tables (for picnics, natch) and purple-velvet lined rear armrest with integrated cigar holder were big hits with the two, but neither have their drivers license yet. Over to you, Best and Brightest.

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Not Exactly Hard, Sweet, and Sticky: Sammy Hagar’s First Rock Star Car Purchase Sat, 02 Apr 2011 22:30:49 +0000
I ended up with a copy of Sammy Hagar’s memoir as reading material for my last air-travel adventure, and found it quite entertaining (in spite of the tedious anti-David Lee Roth/Van Halen brothers diatribes). His tales of being the son of Fontana’s town drunk are worth reading, but the only real shocker came when Hagar describes the car he bought in 1973 with the first real money advanced to Montrose. You’ll never guess what type of vehicle the Red Rocker bought with his first rockstar-grade paycheck!

That’s right, a Citroën 2CV! Perhaps this car was the real inspiration for “I Can’t Drive 55″ (“I Can Only Drive 55 Downhill” didn’t have quite the same ring to it). In his words: “…and I bought a car. Not just any car, of course, but a Citroën Deux Chaveux, the most uncool car on the planet— a French car that looks like a sardine can. I thought it had class.” For what it’s worth, his next car purchase was a right-hand-drive Ferrari 330GT 2+2.

All right, let’s all crank up the song Mr. Hagar wrote for his very first album, a song that makes up for all that hot-selling-yet-forgettable stuff he did with the post-Roth Van Halen. Truly one of the greatest— if not the greatest— beer-soaked-burnouts-in-the-convenience-store-parking-lot anthems ever recorded

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Doomed Value Van Triggers Bad 80s Roadie Flashbacks Thu, 27 Jan 2011 14:00:55 +0000
Some of you may be more familiar with this friend of the catering and drinking-water industries in its Chevrolet Step-Van guise, but I’ve always preferred GMC’s name: Value Van! I ran across this fairly complete example in my local self-service wrecking yard, quite close to the Simu-Wood™ LeBaron Town & Country wagon. Me and the Value Van, we have a history!

Back in 1985 or so, I had some old friends who played in an extremely terrible, wish-they-were-Metallica band in Northern California (I’ll call them “Suck-tallica,” to spare the surviving members— a couple of whom are now in good bands— from embarrassment), and they purchased an ex-San-Francisco-bakery GMC Value Van for use as their gig rig. Unlike the small-block-powered, slushbox-equipped one here, the Suck-tallica Value Van boasted a 396, floor-shifted 4-speed, and Cherry Bomb mufflers. Within minutes of its purchase, the hirsute, alcoholic, stolen-Camaro-drivin’ members of Suck-tallica installed a dozen or so thrift-store house speakers, mounted them all over the interior, and drove them with an alleged 2,000 watts of swap-meet no-name-brand amplifiers, so that their godawful April Wine and Dark Angel cassettes would be audible over the roar from the glasspacks.

I admit being something of a Dark Angel fan myself, back in the day, but I still had misgivings about helping Suck-tallica with their gigs during my visits up from SoCal. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that the band was usually short at least one member due to arrest (possession of meth and drunk driving were the most popular offenses), or just the extremely sketchy— and, often, heavily-armed— hangers-on in their inner circle. Still, friends are friends! What could go wrong?

One gig, at a shank-tastic speed bar in lovely Hayward, sticks in my mind. The Value Van’s throttle cable snapped immediately after firing up the van, and the lead guitar player had the brilliant idea of removing the engine cover so the driver could reach over and work the carburetor by hand. Of course, that meant he had no hands free for shifting, so the drummer sat in the passenger seat and worked the shifter. By that point, they’d all been bonging up many ounces of brown, seedy Mexican weed and knocking back many Mickey’s Big Mouths, so their ingenuity seemed like a great idea. I disagreed, but what does a 19-year-old college boy know about rock-n-roll?

So, the truck somehow made it from band HQ in West Oakland to the Nimitz Freeway (in fact, the section of the Nimitz that became very famous five years later), albeit with several hair-raising stalls on the freeway onramp and a backfire problem that kept roasting the “driver’s” right hand… which would make him scream “FUUUUCK!” and remove his hand from the throttle, at which point the van would engine-brake so bad that all the fifteenth-hand Marshall Stacks would slide forward and mash the remaining occupants against the seat backs. Still, forward progress was being made… until the bass player decided to open the rear cargo doors and relieve his bladder of some Mickey’s residual buildup.

Well, that wasn’t the wisest move, since one of the Value Van’s many throttle/shifter/alcohol-impaired lurches sent the bass player tumbling right out the door and onto the Nimitz Freeway at 70 MPH. He managed to slow his fall by grabbing onto the door edge for long enough to spin himself around, allowing the rhythm guitar player lunge over and grab a handful of the front of his leather jacket as he fell out the door backwards, but the bass player scaled in at a good 250 pounds and his savior might have had 110 pounds between all his monkey-bump-depleted gristle and stringy guitar-twangin’ forearm muscle. The choice of leather for jacket material turned out to be a prescient one for the bass player, because the jacket’s leather was scraping on the asphalt and keeping his back from being ground into hamburger in the first few seconds. I rushed over and grabbed the bass player’s feet, to keep him from leaving the van completely, while the rhythm guitarist did his best to haul him back into the van. We’d manage to get him a foot or so off the pavement rushing by, but the driver thought this was the funniest thing he’d ever seen (guess you had to be there) and he twisted the throttle to WFO and started swerving the van so much that all we could do was give the bass player brief respites from the asphalt belt sander below him.

“HEEELLLPP MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” screamed the bass player as we tried to haul him him before the driver figured out that he could scrape the poor bastard off on any conveniently located guardrail. A legendary rock-n-roll death (though not quite up the standard set a decade later by Eldon Hoke) to be sure, but one that we really didn’t want to witness. Finally, I was able to brace myself enough to drag him to safety by the feet. The van reached the gig, Suck-tallica sucked as much as expected, and I decided to put a bit of distance between myself and the band’s Value Van.
DOTJ-ValueVan-05 DOTJ-ValueVan-01 DOTJ-ValueVan-02 DOTJ-ValueVan-03 DOTJ-ValueVan-04 DOTJ-ValueVan-06 DOTJ-ValueVan-08 DOTJ-ValueVan-07

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Stolen Cassette Deck Karma Goes Around, Comes Around Tue, 28 Dec 2010 14:00:35 +0000
One thing that really sucked about the pre-MP3 era was that it was a huge hassle to get your car a cheap source of music that didn’t sound terrible. As I gather components to set up my Dodge A100 Hell Project with an ironic 8-track setup, I’m forced to recall the hot cassette deck that was more or less forced into my not-so-willing hands back in 1982.

My first car was a 50-buck 1969 Toyota Corona sedan. It came with a factory AM radio (with the CONELRAD stations indicated by Civil-Defense symbols) in the dash, which meant I could listen to scratchy, mono-dash-speaker stuff like Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock-N-Roll” on KFRC.

It also came with an underdash Kraco 8-track player. By the early 1980s, 8-tracks had become laughably obsolete (but not yet ironic-hipster cool), and no 16-year-old wanted to be seen with an 8-track tape in his or her possession. That would be as humiliating a 16-year-old having a Zune now. Being broke, I picked up a genuinely lo-fi piece of audio hardware for $1.50 from the U-Pull yard on 85th Avenue in east Oakland: a cassette-to-8-track adapter. Yes, such devices actually existed, and they almost worked! Well, no, they didn’t.

Cassettes sucked, too, but they sucked less than 8-tracks (this Non/Boyd Rice tape is the only store-bought cassette I can dig up at this hour; I’ve given up finding an image of the X cassette I really wanted for this rant). What I needed was a proper cassette deck for my Corona, so I could crank the Dead Kennedys and Motörhead as I cruised Park Street with a mighty 1900 cubic centimeters of Toyota R power at my command. Back then, however, you couldn’t even get an off-brand Taiwanese Staticblaster cassette player for the kind of money I was able to scrape up from my after-school job stocking the beer fridge at the Herpes Central Beach And Tennis Club Bar, not if you were trying to save up the cash to buy a ’71 Satellite with header-equipped 318. Junkyard decks weren’t much cheaper, not if they worked. What to do?

I figured something would come up, but my friend “Sick Dog” (second from left in the yearbook photo of my crypto-Baja-ized ’58 Beetle, above) couldn’t stand riding in my car and being forced to listen to “Kill The Poor” through a warbly-ass 8-track adapter and decided to take decisive action. This decisive action consisted of Sick Dog ripping off the cassette deck from a Capri II owned by a young woman who lived next door; he believed that she had once called the cops on him for doing bleach burnouts in his (six-cylinder) ’68 Mustang and thus deserved to get her Capri de-stereo-ized. Dressed all in black, including ski mask— he was on a mission, you see— he coat-hangered his way into the car and spent hours silently dismantling the dash and removing the Realistic cassette deck. Next day at school, filled with pride, he handed me a paper bag containing the stereo. “Let’s install it tonight!” I was horrified, but what could I do? Rat off my best friend to The Man? I told him he was an asshole. “What’s done is done,” he replied, “Now you’ve got tunes, dude!”

So, we rigged up the cassette deck in place of the AM radio in the Corona, using some junkyard speakers sitting in holes crudely hacked into the rear package shelf with a jigsaw. Powering it up, we discovered that it had a cassette inside. Not just any cassette, in fact— this was one of the greatest albums ever recorded: X’s 1980 masterpiece, Los Angeles. I’d heard of X— they were starting to get medium-big in Northern California with Under The Big Black Sun around that time— but I had never listened to Los Angeles all the way through. It immediately became my favorite tape and went on many road trips over the next 20 years (it was finally eaten by a tape-hungry boombox in my ’76 Nova)… but I always felt a twinge of guilt, thinking about the poor Capri-driving woman losing both her stereo and (what I’ve always assumed was) her favorite cassette. Actually, more than a twinge of guilt; there have been times that I’ve felt like the protagonist of an Edgar Allen Poe story, being stalked by a ghost who hums “Johnny Hit And Run Pauline” while dragging chains over an endless expanse of busted tape decks.

I’ve often wondered if Sick Dog, who grew up into a reasonably law-abiding guy, feels bad about his youthful stereo theft, or if he even remembers it. For my part, I can tell you that there is such a thing as Hot Cassette Deck Karma; I’ve had plenty of cassette players ripped off from my vehicles over the years. Sure, living in urban-entrepreneur-heavy San Francisco and Oakland had something to do with it, but the real reason was the straight-outta-Poe ghost leading miscreants to my parked car. It’s been at least 10 years since I’ve had a car stereo theft, so the Tape Deck Ghost appears to believe that my half-dozen disappeared cassette players was a sufficient price to pay for the tainted deck in my Corona.

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The Booth Babe Chronicles: The Song And Dance Of Car Commercials Sun, 13 Jun 2010 10:23:58 +0000

Music and scents. That’s what surrounds me during my work at car shows. The music tries to drown out the display next door. The ladies, gentlemen, even the cars in the booth are carefully perfumed. (There are other scents … but let’s not go there.)  Nothing evokes a greater emotional response than music and scents. Retail establishments have figured out how to get to you via your nose and ears for years. Until Smell-O-Vision is actually rolled out, TV advertising has to be content with the music side of things. Luckily, most auto manufacturers know exactly how to push our buttons with a great tune. Here are some of my personal faves.

(Double play bonus: Clicking on the song title gets you to the original song – except for one.)

This commercial for the Cadillac SRX didn’t make me go out and buy a crossover, but it did make me get on iTunes and download the Phoenix album. It’s so good that one YouTube commenter said, “This car should come with the song pre-installed in it. Why? So you can drive down the road pretending your [sic] in the commercial.”

“1901″ by Phoenix

VW has a huge hard-on for Wilco, as evidenced by no less than five songs used in their commercials (and I don’t think that count is accurate; it is definitely not less but could be more). In fact, the band and VW used the album Sky Blue as a joint marketing effort in 2007 as means to their own ends.

“Sky Blue Sky” by Wilco

I swear I’m not a shill for Lincoln (I don’t even rep them at the auto show) but they have blown my mind with this space ship ad campaign. Eye-catching images and haunting music make you feel like maybe you, a person who is or still feels like they should be in their late 20′s, should run out and buy a traditionally grandpa-ish vehicle because the music is just that cool.


“Burning for You” by Shiny Toy Guns

“Major Tom (Coming Home)” by Shiny Toy Guns

(ED: Did you know that the soundtrack is a German import? Major Tom (völlig losgelöst) by Peter Schilling became a hit in Germany in 1983, a year later it was released in the USA as Major Tom (coming home) by the same artist. The German version is still a hit in certain European clubs where people go on trips into other galaxies … nuff said.)

“Under the Milky Way” by Sia

“High Roller” by The Crystal Method (Get it? Get it?)

And for LOLS…

Freakin’ Kia and their hilarious hamsters… So much better than the alternative. They’re kickin’ it old school in this Soul commercial.

“This or That” by Black Sheep

And the LOL Champion: Toyota Sienna Swagger Wagon (although what Dad’s doing to the giant baby bottle at the end looks rather obscene…)

“Swagger Wagon” by The Sienna Family (This will get you back to the video. Toyota actually paid for a new song, instead of recycling an old one. And created a minor hit.)

I’m glad I find this funny, because I have a sneaking suspicion Toyota will have this playing very, very loudly on heavy rotation throughout all next auto show season – loud enough to hear it at least five displays over.

What’s your favorite car commercial tune?

The Booth Babe is an anonymous auto show model who dishes about what really goes on behind the scenes. Read her blog at And if you treat her nicely, read her each Sunday at

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