The Truth About Cars » seattle The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 15 Jul 2014 13:19:48 +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 » seattle Sunday Story: Unhitched Sun, 19 Jan 2014 14:00:56 +0000 PONTPC3

“It was the summer of ’92, and all I wanted was to be in Seattle. You know, like every other mopey kid with long hair, a flannel shirt and a guitar. But I was 16, with no license and no car. And I lived in Connecticut. It was time to get creative.”

I met Bryce by accident at one of those grad school functions everybody goes to just for the free food. He was your stereotypical late-in-lifer; one of those smart but hopelessly anarchic types that screwed around for two decades, accidentally aged past forty, and finally decided he needed a real career after all. The old grunge tattoos were a dead giveaway, as well as the black crewneck over jeans. He found me more tolerable than the milquetoasts sipping virgin martinis; I felt the same way. Besides, I needed a good subject for my biography class.

Two weeks later, we met up in the part of town where going to Waffle House is a non-ironic activity, and an open window counts as a cigarette patio. I hit the tape recorder, and he launched into his own story.

“So I grew up in New Haven. Dad taught Greek at Yale. A real quiet little mouse of a man, God bless him. Mom taught painting, when she was around. She came and went pretty erratically. They covered it up by saying she was overseas or on trips, at first. But by 13 I knew she had been in and out of the nuthouse. We were non-functional as a family. Dad was always either in the library or off lecturing somewhere, and Mom was unstable even in the best of times. I had two brothers, but they were both about a decade older and never came round. They lived out on the West Coast.” He paused to take a drag on his Newport, then looked me dead in the eye. “Look, I’m not trying to make this into a pity party. I just want you to have the background.”

“It’s fine. I understand.”

“All right. So, when I got to be about 13, I started to really act out. By 14 I was selling weed and getting kicked out of shows and bars in New Haven, Waterbury, Bridgeport, you name it. When I was 15 started selling coke to all the trust fund babies running around campus. Meanwhile I was in this never-ending chain of bands, sometimes 4 or 5 at a time. We’d fight, break up, form new groups. They were all made up of the same 30 or so people. Punk, grunge, metal, whatever, we played it all. I still have a suitcase full of shitty tapes at home if you want a listen.” We both laughed at that one. The waitress politely gave us a coffee refill.

“Anyway, in September of ’91, Nevermind came out. That was my galvanizing moment. Radio stations played it on loop for weeks. I’d heard Bleach before off a tape of a tape of a tape that somebody gave me, but it didn’t sink in then. After Nevermind, I knew I wanted to be in Seattle. It was the place to be if you cared about music, and that was the only thing I cared about at that point. I hated everything about New Haven at that point, hated Yale, hated my life, my family. In short, I had just turned 16.” Another laugh.

“But you decided to do something about it.”

“Yup. So I decided to split. This was around the middle of June, ’92.” Time to light another cig. We paused until he got it puffing again.

“I took my acoustic, since I figured I could make a few bucks busking whenever I needed to.  Besides the guitar, I only had about $50, a map, and a bunch of peanut butter I stole from the Yale cafeteria. I wrote a note to Dad telling him to not freak out. I think he was relieved, to be honest. He loved me, but I was ruining his life at that point. He would have kicked me out if he could have worked up the courage, I know it.”

“So how did you get moving?”

“I was already an experienced hitchhiker at that point. It’s how I got around Connecticut, that and hopping trains. In the early 90’s, you could still do that. People would stop if you sold it well enough. Especially old people. If you were young and waifish and kind of forlorn looking, those old grannies and grandpas would pull over in their New Yorkers and Grand Marquis and give you a lift. Even if it was getting dark, and they were alone. They didn’t have the same fear that people do now.”

“That’s weird. I don’t know anybody that would ever pick up a hitcher.”

“It’s all because of movies and other bullshit. Lots of people did it. Most of ‘em were like me, just kids. We just wanted to get from point A to point B. None of us were angels, but we weren’t robbers either. They knew that. What you gotta remember is that these were the people that grew up in the 30’s and 40’s. You know, when there were a lot of young people just wandering around, because they had no job, no family, nowhere to go but the next place down the road. A lot of the people I bummed rides from probably hitched themselves, at one point or another. It’s a damn shame, you know. I think we lost something when hitching stopped being a thing. Everybody says I’m nuts, but I still pick people up from time to time. Although I hardly ever see any.” Time for another smoke.

“Anyway, the point is, I thought I could get anywhere. I was almost right. I took off one night, and within three days I was in Buffalo. I thought, holy shit, this is going to be cake. But then I stalled out, and it took me a week to get to Cleveland. It was rough, and I met some real shady characters.”

“Such as?”

“Truck stop hookers, crackheads, the usual. It was the pimps you had to watch out for. They wouldn’t think twice about cutting you if you looked at them funny.”


“Yeah. I got in a few fights, including one where I got cut on the arm pretty bad. That was the scariest part of the trip. I was outside Chicago, by Joliet, and this guy came up and slashed me with a busted Cobra bottle while I was busking outside a 7-11. I was bleeding all over the place. I wound up giving an eighth of an ounce of weed that a friendly hobo had shared with me to a truck stop employee so they would drop me at the hospital. I got stitched up and then I ran away, but I lost my fake ID in the process.”

“Holy shit.”

“What can I say? It was exciting, at least. But as luck would have it, I met a sympathetic trucker in the loading dock at a medical supply place not far from the hospital. He agreed to take me all the way to Idaho.”

“Wow, really? Why Idaho?”

“He was going home, he said. I couldn’t believe my luck. We hit the road and started making good time. But things got weird pretty quickly.”

“Oh no.”

“At first I just thought he was one of those New Age pagan types. He’d carry on and on about old German and Norse mythology, and all kinds of other obscure stuff I’d barely heard of. Which was fine, I tolerated it and I even prayed with him and the whole nine yards. He was a free ride after all. But then he started talking about how I should join his ‘community,’ and how I’d be so happy on the ranch with all his other friends. And then he started to wax poetic about drinking a freshly slain goat’s blood under the light of a new moon.”

“Oh dear Lord.”

“I know. But hey, if I’d been more into black metal at that point, maybe I would have gone with him.” A laugh, but he quickly went back to being serious. “It’s one thing to hitch a short ride around the city, but highway hitching is a different ballgame. There are a lot of crazy types looking for an opportunity. Going with that guy was definitely the dumbest thing I did.”

“Anyway, I could see that I needed to part ways with this guy, sooner rather than later. When we stopped for gas in Boise I took off running. After that, I wandered up Route 55, which runs alongside the national forest. Big mistake. Beautiful country, but I was really marooned at this point. My  rides had dried up. I couldn’t even busk for money. Thank God it was summer, so I didn’t freeze to death. I ate a lot of blackberries and other stuff I scrounged from the edge of the national park, but I was still half starving to death.”

“So what happened?”

“It was the middle of August, and I was desperate. I was really regretting this whole thing now. I realized how close I came to disaster with that trucker, and I was afraid he might still be looking for me. Finally one day I got lucky. I was outside some little bait shop not far from Lake Cascade. This old man drives up in a big, green 70’s Pontiac with windows tinted solid black goes in to get some beer. When he gets out, he stops to hear me sing “When Your House is Not a Home”- I’ll remember that song forever. When I stop, he strikes up a conversation. Pretty soon I was pouring my heart out, while he stood there and nodded.”

“There was something about him that was just so magnetic. He was just this stooped, frail little old man with hunched shoulders and white hair, yet he was incredibly charismatic. Like a born leader. I felt completely drained after I finished telling him my story. Then he told me, ‘Boy, get in the car,’ and I’d never been quicker to obey an order in my life. I think I said ‘Yes, sir’ for the first time ever that day.” Another laugh, another cig.

“Soon we were headed South, back down the highway. He cruised along with one hand on the wheel, that huge car just eating up the miles. He started to lecture me, and I listened. I don’t honestly know if he was bullshitting me or not, but he told me that he used to be a real big shot back East. He wouldn’t go into specifics, but said that he made a ton of cash by shacking up with the Mob. Eventually he got pinched and did hard time, and all he could think of was rebuilding when he got out. But then he had a change of heart. He didn’t want to deal with the Mob, the feds, the IRS, and he didn’t want his family to get mixed up in it any more than they already were. So one day he just took off without telling anybody.”

“Pretty crazy stuff.”

“Yeah. In hindsight, he was probably just making it all up. But at the time, I ate it up. When he was done he looked me in the eyes and said, ‘Son, you don’t know what loneliness is like. And I don’t want you to find out.’ Chilled me right down to the bone.”

We paused for a moment. Bryce looked out the window, and I thought I saw his eyes get watery. But then it was gone.

“Before I knew it, we were back in downtown Boise, right by the airport. He opened up the glovebox, and it was literally full of money. Just scores of hundred-dollar bills. My eyes boggled. He grabbed three of them and told me to buy a plane ticket home. I got out of the car and he took off. Never saw him again.”

“Just like that.”

“Yeah. Flew home that evening. Can’t say the rest of my life is nearly as interesting.” The sun was setting, and I suggested maybe we should move on to some place that served alcohol. We paid up and headed out towards car.

“Oh, shit! Almost forgot. In Cleveland I swiped one of those cheap 35 mm disposable cameras from a truck stop. Somehow I kept it in one piece till I got home. Pontiac man wouldn’t let us take a picture together, but when he wasn’t looking I snapped one anyway. I’ve always got it on me.”

He pulled out his billfold, and I took a look at a well-worn picture. In the fading light, I couldn’t make out much at first. A small man, looking serious (nervous, maybe?) behind the wheel of his enormous Pontiac, his face partly turned away from the camera. Those deep-set and heavily bagged eyes, that slicked-back hair, those big jowls; there was something uncanny about him. Suddenly, waves of shock ran through me as I thought about a picture of my own. It was one of my late grandfather, posing alongside the Teamsters’ high officials sometime in the 60s… No. Couldn’t be. Bryce gave me a funny look.

“You alright?”

“Oh, I’m fine.” But I wasn’t. Gliding out of the parking lot in Bryce’s old Grand Am, I was lost in thought. In the end, I didn’t say anything to Bryce, and I still don’t think he suspects a thing. It’s probably my own overactive imagination, anyway. Like he said, you meet all kinds of crazies on the road.

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Ford CEO Mulally To Head Boeing Or Microsoft Soon? Sat, 19 Oct 2013 16:06:35 +0000 ford-ceo-alan-mulally-china-lincolnjpg-894a92e3f2c9121aThe rumor mill has been grinding away as of late regarding the possible return of Ford CEO Alan Mulally to helm either one of two of Seattle’s many economic engines: Microsoft and Boeing. In the face of these rumors, Mulally has opted not to dispel the rampant speculation.

Reuters was  among those in attendance at an automotive conference in Wuhan, China, where Mulally’s response to being asked whether he was directly or indirectly approached by either company to take the wheel was, “I love serving Ford.” He added that there were no changes to the plan laid out for Ford to find a successor to the third longest serving CEO when he steps down at the end of 2014, though Reuters did report that the auto maker may be open to an earlier departure should Mulally accept an offer elsewhere.

Since taking over Ford in 2006, Mulally helped steady the then-troubled company through his One Ford plan, which led to the sale of acquired brands — including Aston Martin and Volvo — to bring the focus back upon the Ford and Lincoln product lines. In turn, Mulally’s Ford was the only auto maker to avoid the pitfalls and bailouts experienced by Chrysler and General Motors during the Great Recession’s early days in late 2008.

With Microsoft’s market price still stagnant a decade on, and Boeing’s own woes with the 787 Dreamliner, either company could possibly benefit should the right offer approach his desk, especially if hand-delivered by his senior contacts in both companies to his home in Seattle.

Of course, when asked if he were open to a new executive post upon the end of his term at Ford, Mulally laughed and only had three words for the reporter: “I don’t know.”

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The bell tolls over Seattle, but not for most commuters Thu, 17 Oct 2013 10:30:48 +0000 520_sunset510

It would appear as though the price of admission to traverse the longest floating bridge in the world on a daily basis has had quite the impact on commuting patterns in Seattle. A study to be issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation this week – barring another tragicomic display by the powers that be, of course – has uncovered that use of the Governor Albert D. Rosellini Bridge – Evergreen Point (colloquially known as the 520 floating bridge) has gone down by half since tolling began near the end of 2011.

The tolls, ranging from $0 for late-night and early morning travelers, to $5.25 for those rush-hour commuters who prefer to pay the man by mail, have caused 9 out of 10 drivers to find another path to work and play across Lake Washington. The majority of those avoiding the toll have annual incomes of $50,000 and under, while those making $200,000 and above (and are no doubt enjoying the more open road) pay little if any mind to being tolled.

On the upside, more commuters are using mass transit due to the tolls – which were enacted as one of the five DOT demonstration projects under their $1 billion Urban Partnerships Congestion Initiative – with around 45 percent preferring to “ride the wave” than drown in a congestion pricing tsunami.

The information provided by the study will be considered by Olympia, Wash.’s best and brightest this week as they debate on whether to set tolls upon the other two floating bridges (both carrying east- and westbound traffic on I-90) over Lake Washington to help fund the construction of the 520’s replacement, set to open in 2014.

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Historic Police Car Spotted Responding to call on the Not-So-Mean Streets of Seattle Thu, 04 Apr 2013 19:51:59 +0000

An alert REDDIT reader (manuelv 19) spotted the Seattle Police Museum’s 1970 Plymouth Satellite patrol car responding to calls on the coffee scented streets of dowtown Seattle earlier this week. According to the Seattle Police Museum website, only 53 Special Order Police Satellites were produced in 1970 and 21 of those were purchased by the Seattle Police Department. The cars were mid-size police vehicles and featured the 383 Super Commando engine package complete with 4 bbl carburetors. They were reputed top be quite fast at the time.

This particular vehicle, known as Unit #521, was wrecked with only 9000 miles on the clock and sold at public auction eventually ending up in Los Angeles. The Seattle Police Museum located and purchased the vehicle in 2006 and spent a year returning the car to its former glory. More information on this vehicle is available at the Seattle Police Museum website of by calling (206) 748-9991.

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Youthful Exuberance: Big Cat Hunting Tue, 19 Mar 2013 12:15:34 +0000

The Seattle area traffic was light. A few hours earlier, at the peak of the Friday night rush hour, Interstate 405 had been bumper to bumper. Now, just after 7 PM, the road was crowded but moving freely. I had a killer commute, 40 miles each way, and I was thankful I had missed the worst of it. I spent a lot of time on the road and I understood how traffic ebbed and flowed in that same intuitive way that way someone who works on a river understands how a ripple on the otherwise smooth surface betrays the roiling currents in the depths below. On a Friday night like this, for example, I knew I was behind the great outward rush from the urban centers and into suburbs and just ahead of the second, smaller rush of people from the suburbs heading back into the city for an evening of food, fun and friends. To the west, the sun was sinking slowly into the Pacific while on the Earth, in the growing drakness, the hunt was on…

It was a good time to be out and about, the night was young and full of untapped excitement. I knew anything could happen as I headed south out of Kirkland, through the city of Bellevue and made the gentle ascent through the tunnel and up towards the I-90 interchange just south of the city. Once past the interchange, I had a good view of Lake Washington and the exclusive properties on Mercer Island on my right, and I began to slowly work my way down the hill towards Renton, still some miles to the south.

With Bellevue and the last big freeway interchange behind me, traffic was moving faster and spreading out. I was in the fast lane and my little red Dodge Shadow was running effortlessly along in 5th gear at just above the posted limit when a motion in my rearview mirror caught my eye. I read the scene with a practiced eye: A big Jaguar sedan weaving quickly through the already fast-moving traffic, overtaking car after car, its dark shape slipping stealthily up behind me. The driver was obviously having fun among the other, lesser cars and as he pulled alongside I glanced over to size him up.

He was a handsome man in his early thirties, clear-eyed, perfect hair and with jaw carved out of pure granite set with, I was certain, perfect, white teeth. Beside him sat a woman of equal beauty perhaps a year or two younger while another equally handsome couple occupied the back seats. They were all well dressed, both men in expensive looking suits and the women in fancy dresses with carefully coiffed hair. The car itself was a black XJ sedan and it showed a 6 liter emblem on its back. It was a big, powerful and classy car, the perfect choice for the perfect man with the perfect life.

I pulled the Shadow out of 5th gear, stuffed the shifter straight into 3rd and zapped the throttle. The little engine roared in instant anger and the boost gauge swung hard right burying itself against the pin. The Shadow leaped forward, slamming me into the seat, and in a split second I was back alongside the big sedan. Surprised, the handsome, perfect man behind the wheel of the Jag glanced over at me and then tossed back his head and smiled as he said something to the others in the car. The lovely woman in the passenger seat tittered airily as she brought her hand up to her lips. I had seen enough, I mashed the gas.

The Shadow jumped forward and opened a lead of about two car lengths as its 2.2 liter 4 cylinder raced towards the red line. I quick shifted into fourth and pegged the throttle again as the Jag shot forward and made up the gap while my boost momentarily dropped with my RPMs. The road wound out in front of us, the two lanes of the interstate twisting as they made their way past the Coal Creek Parkway and down towards the May Creek exit at the bottom of the hill. We stayed there, stuck to one another, door handle to door handle as our speed climbed quickly into triple digits. Onward we went, the little 2.2 liter engine in my Shadow revving hard as I pushed the car for all it was worth. Red line came, then passed as I held it in 4th gear knowing that 5th was a big jump that would drop my revs too much and mean my defeat.

The big Jaguar and my little Shadow were still neck and neck as we hit the bottom of the hill, ran across a brief flat and then began to work our way up the long, steep slope of the Kennydale hill. Beyond the hill lay the city of Renton and its infamous S curves and already I could see traffic slowing as the typical back up on the approach to the city was beginning to build. There was still time to make my competitor stand down, I thought, but with the little car firmly in the red zone I knew it was past time to shift up or blow up. There was no choice and as I made the switch the Jaguar slipped smoothly away from me and up the hill.

I let off the gas and, thanks to the steep slope, my little car began to slow quickly. Traffic was still open enough for me to weave and dodge my way through at a decent clip as I continued to burn off speed without using my brakes while the big Jag had an easier time coasting back down to legal speeds in the car pool lane. We crested the hill and, as we made our way down towards the S curves, I could see a river of ruby-red brake lights growing ever nearer. Traffic slowed to a crawl and then ground to a halt. At the Renton city limits the carpool lane ended and the Jaguar was forced back into the crowded lanes. As luck would have it, we found ourselves stopped next to one another.

The handsome man’s perfect composure was wrecked and he sat there glaring out the windshield, both hands gripping the big car’s wheel so tightly the knuckles were white. A vein on his temple pounded, and the muscles of his magnificent, granite jaw bulged and pulsed as his perfect white teeth ground away at one another. The vision of loveliness in the passenger seat sat stiffly beside the man, arms crossed and her face turned away from him as she stared out the passenger window. The couple in the back seat were a different story altogether. They woman was smiling and laughing with real knee-slapping gusto while her man sat looking at me and my little turbo, the awe plain on his face as he tried to understand just what the hell happened.

Technically, I knew, I had lost the race when I the big Jag had finally used its superior muscle to pull away on the Kennydale hill, but he didn’t know that. To the perfect man, with the perfect girl and the perfect friends in the big, beautiful Jaguar I was the winner. Perfect or not, sometimes thats just how it goes.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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New or Used: Seatown, not Snowtown! Tue, 16 Oct 2012 14:00:13 +0000

TTAC Commentator Horseflesh writes:

Hey Sajeev and Steve,

Winter is coming. Like any true Seattle suburbanite, I dread the debut of the white stuff. We’re so scared of snow up here that the local insurance company even aired commercials teasing us about it.

I have to admit, the truth hurts, and I am a big snow-baby, choosing to stay off the roads as much as possible. But sometimes, you have to drive. And here’s the question: I need a hand from the Best & Brightest on selecting a snowy steed, because I just don’t have enough experience to know which of our vehicles is best suited to the job.

Option One: 2010 Mini Cooper Clubman, with manual transmission and Michelin Ice-X snow tires. This car is front wheel drive, obviously, including an automagical “dynamic stability control.” Sometimes the DSC light on the dash comes on under hard cornering, so you can be sure that something is happening… but how helpful is the system behind the dashboard light? I have no idea.

Option Two: 2000 Impreza RS, with manual transmission and all-season tires. This is a normally aspirated sedan, with AWD 50/50 power split and a limited slip rear differential. It has no form of electronic stability control. Surprisingly, the Scooby only weighs about 100 lbs more than the Mini. Lastly, if it makes the difference in the Snow Day Showdown, I’ll put on snow tires.

Option Three: 2003 E350 cargo van, with automatic transmission and all-season tires. Weighing more than the other 2 cars put together, and featuring the refinement of a coal train, I cannot see this being a good choice. Also, it is glacier white. The inevitable wreck would therefore be well-hidden from first responders.

What say the B&B? Does a FWD car with stability control and snow tires beat an AWD car without either? If the AWD car gets snow tires, does that change the outcome? There is likely at least one long, snowy drive ahead of me this winter, so I very much appreciate any input.


Steve answers:

It’s a good thing you’re thinking about it. As a former resident of upstate New York, let me clue you in on a few things.

First off, both the Mini and the Impreza will be perfectly fine in the snow. Although I would favor the Mini due to the snow tires and the electronic stability control. All wheel drive will not save your bacon if you don’t have any traction for the wheels. Snow tires make that difference in real world driving.

Front wheel drive is fine for most regions (which is where by the way?).. Snow tires are even better. Electronic stability control is one more strong plus.

The Impreza would offer a bit more ground clearance if you have to commute in an area where the snowfall is near Buffalo levels and the public services are near Detroit levels. All things being equal, I would stick with the Mini. If you really want to improve your snow driving prowess I would encourage you to strike up a few local conversations and watch some Youtube videos.

Sajeev answers:

Aside from LSX-FTW, tires have the most impact to a car’s performance: various sizes, inflation pressures, tread designs and rubber compounds are in play.  The Econoline might be okay with a ton of ballast in the rear, but it’s the worst choice. The best is the rig with the snow tires.  Plus, it’s front wheel drive!

The MINI is the only choice, total no brainer. Unless you sell it and get a Panther with the aforementioned ton of ballast in the trunk.  I only say this because my first car (1965 Ford Galaxie, automatic, open differential) lived in Palouse most of its life, with snow tires and a couple of sandbags in the trunk for ballast. And if my relatives could tough it out (as if) in a Galaxie for decades, why not treat yourself to a Panther?

I’m just sayin’…who else could make this question all about Panthers???

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