Before the Clint Eastwood film (but after the cheezoid TV show), the most well-known Ford Gran Torino in cinema history was the beater ’73 sedan driven by Jeff Bridges’ character in The Big Lebowski. This film, which took quite a while to go from box-office dud to sacred document of the Lebowski Jihad, was released in 1998 and was set in late 1990 or early 1991 (a period during which I was also in Southern California and living a fairly Dude-ish lifestyle myself). The choice of a ’73 Gran Torino by the Coen Brothers makes some interesting statements for those who obsess about movie cars, and Monday is always the best day to discuss such things. (Read More…)
One of the things I miss most about living in the San Francisco Bay Area— OK, maybe the thing I miss the most— is the proper Mission-style burrito. Here in Denver, the Midwestern-influenced salty/bland flavors, brown rice, and incorrect shape of the Chipotle-style burrito dominates, and so whenever I head back to Northern California to shoot some junkyard cars, I try to hit the taqueria that got me hooked on Mission-style Burritos in the first place: Ramiro & Sons Taqueria in my hometown of Alameda, California. Inside this place (whose burritos, good as they are, don’t quite measure up to what you’ll get in the actual Mission District about five miles due east and on the other side of the Bay; this place is my personal favorite), you’ll find a painting on the wall that’s been hanging there since 1984, and that painting depicts a yellow two-door hardtop of some sort parked in front. For 30 years now, I’ve puzzled over that painting, trying to figure out what kind of car I’m seeing. (Read More…)
I am always hesitant to write a “how to” article. I learned a long time ago that no matter how good I am at something, there is always someone better right around the corner. For every bad-ass black belt you meet, there is a Chuck Norris looking to teach him some humility. Still, when I know something it’s hard to keep it under my hat so I am going to risk drawing your ire in order to start a conversation. Let’s keep it congenial, mkay?
The concept behind the Year of Your Birth Rally is simple: you must drive a vehicle with a model year the same as your own. Nick Pon, Assistant Perp of the 24 Hours of LeMons, created the idea and swears he’s going to organize such a rally someday. He was born in 1980, which means he has a vast array of terrible-yet-great Malaise Era machinery to choose from. I was born in 1966, which means I could drive my ’66 Dodge A100… or a ’66 Beaumont. What would you drive? (Read More…)
After my idea for a DUI Telepresence Crown Victoria Racing series failed to attract the shadowy Eastern European investors I’d hoped to line up, I got to thinking about spec racing. Everybody in a spec racing series runs the same kind of car, which makes parts easy to get and (in theory, though sure as hell not in practice) puts the focus on driver skill rather than vehicle price. There’s Spec Miata and Spec E30 and Spec Neon and all the rest, but it’s sort of boring watching those races. Spec racing needs better cars, and we’re going to pick the best one right now! (Read More…)
Old-timers will tell you that the Golden Age of the Sleeper ran from the end of World War II through the late 1960s, when you could take, say, a Grandma-spec ’61 Lancer wagon and stuff the engine compartment full of Max Wedge 413 power. I think the old-timers are as wrong about that as they are about the superiority of film cameras over digital cameras; the current era of computerized engine controls, big turbochargers, and tougher drivetrain components means you can get ridiculous power (and handling) out of quotidian transportation appliances. So, looking at the current lineup of snore-inducing machinery that nobody would ever in a million years suspect of being quick, which new car would provide the best balance of potential performance and invisibility? A Kia Rio with a huge turbocharger and the finest suspension upgrades that cubic yards of cash can buy? (Read More…)
After writing my earlier post on the Isuzu Statesman Deville, I got to thinking about all the oddball vehicles that have resulted from badge engineering exercises over the years. Some badge-engineered cars end up being successful for the parent company (e.g., the Colt), but most just confuse vehicle shoppers. The Plymouth Cricket. The Isuzu Hombre. The Mercury Mountaineer. The list is long, but I think the Plymouth Arrow Truck gets my vote for the most senseless act of brand-diluting badge engineering in American automotive history. (Read More…)
A quiet Sunday. Time to fire up Google and put in “Toyota AND [cause OR reason].” We come up with ample explanations why Toyota is not called Toyoda. Or why Peiping turned into Peking, and then into Beijing. What about the causes of sudden acceleration? Let’s see what we find. (If you have other things to do on a Sunday: We find a lot of questions and no answers.) (Read More…)