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…)
Tag: Thomas Kreutzer
Earlier this week, as I was looking for photos to illustrate my Vision of the Future, I stumbled across a photo of the Toyota i-Road, a three wheel electric vehicle that tilts its way through corners in the same was a scooter or motorcycle might. The i-Road debuted at the Geneva Motor Show in 2012 and despite what I am sure must have been a great deal of attention at the time, I had never heard of the vehicle. As I read more about it I found information about the Toyota “Ha:Mo urban transport system” that is currently undergoing trials in Toyota city and was stunned to find that, with a few notable exceptions, the program bears a striking resemblance to the future I had laid out in my previous article. The future, it seems, is already here. Too bad it is going to fall flat on its face…
The following article is long. Some of you will decry it as fiction outside of the space this website normally reserves for stories and others of you will lament its presence on what is supposed to be an automotive news website. Maybe you are right, but the truth is that I read a lot and my mind is constantly pulling at a million disparate threads of information and tying them together in ways that make unusual patterns. Some of these things have coalesced this week into the following piece and so I have offered it to the editors to see if they think it has a place on our esteemed pages. If you are seeing it, then they have given it the green light and all I can do is ask you to indulge me.
Articles about the future used to show up in the newspapers and the magazines with surprising regularity when I was a kid. They were great reading and were almost always accompanied by large, full color illustrations by noted artists like Syd Mead that fleshed out the words out surprising detail. In virtually every case, despite much of the turmoil going on in our country in the 1970s, those articles painted a picture of a better, brighter future. Now more than a third of the way through the second decade of the 21st century, we all know that things didn’t turn out quite the way those old articles imagined but that doesn’t mean that we should stop trying to predict what is coming. I can’t help but think that a better tomorrow really is right around the corner. (Read More…)
In 1991, I came back from Operation Desert Storm with a pocketful of money from the several months I had spent aboard an oil tanker as a part of the USS John F Kennedy battle group in the Red Sea. Like many young men flush with cash I was determined to shoot the works as fast as possible and so before my jet lag had even abated I took my nest egg on a tour of the local low-end car lots in search of some real old-fashioned Detroit muscle. It didn’t take me long to find something I liked, a well used 1969 Camaro with small block and a four speed, and I was ready to deal but the price on the windshield, $3200, stopped me cold. It was outrageous! (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…)
The hot August sun beat down with real intensity, its heat baking the dun colored earth into a hard packed surface that flecked away in a fine powder that puffed skyward with every footstep I took. The area before me seemed large, but like so many things in Japan its sense of scale was distorted by the fact that, over time, I had grown accustomed to tiny plots of land and buildings crowding in upon one another so closely that they blotted out the sky. In reality the space was little more than a fraction of an acre but even so it seemed like an oasis of space in an otherwise crowded urban desert. The fact that it was packed with junk cars was just icing on the cake. (Read More…)
The Turbo Dodge Shadow that I purchased in February of 1988 lived hard and fast but, thanks in part to my strict adherence to a maintenance schedule and my belief in the power of synthetic motor oil, it didn’t die young. By 1996 the little red car had more than 135K miles on the clock and a whole lot of hard fought-street racing victories – and maybe just a few losses – under its belt. After I changed the head gasket somewhere around the 80K mile mark, the car suffered a couple of broken timing belts, caused mostly by my inability to correctly adjust the belt’s tension, but otherwise had few problems. Still, as the miles added up, I became concerned about the car’s condition and eventually purchased a Geo Metro to take over daily driving duties. Later, after sliding the Metro off an icy highway, I traded up to a K5 Jimmy, but kept the Shadow as a my own special toy. The Jimmy came with a big loan payment, however, and all it took to totally derail my carefully balanced finances was a lay-off. Before I knew it, I was in over my head and flat broke. Stuff had to go. (Read More…)
Wired.com is reporting that the state of California has abruptly tabled legislation that might have allowed RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chips to be embedded into the state’s drivers’ licenses. Privacy activists are hailing the suspension of this plan as a victory against government intrusion in people’s lives and believe that these chips, which are actually tiny radio transceivers that can be accessed over the open airwaves without the consent of the person carrying the document, will eventually be used to track people’s movements without their knowledge. Currently, three states, Michigan, Vermont and Washington, already have RFID chips in their licenses and are already sharing information collected by the DMV, including basic identity data and photos, with the Department of Homeland Security via a national database. Scary, right? (Read More…)
Last Saturday, the Toronto Sun ran a report on the McMillan family, a twenty-something couple with two young sons, who, worried about the amount of control that modern technology seemed to be exerting on their lives, decided to roll the clock back to 1986. They’ve packed away their i-phones, their tablets and their DVD players, disconnected the cable TV and turned off their internet to, according to the family’s father Blair McMillan, parent the kids the same way they were parented. The ban on all forms of modern technology has worked its way into every aspect of the family’s life and they recently completed a trip across the United States using only a paper map for directions and relying upon nothing more than coloring books and games to keep the kids quiet in the back seat. Somehow, they managed to make it home safe, sound and sane.
In the summer of 1984, my older sister Connie landed a great job with Sears credit hassling people for money. If you knew my sister, you would understand that hassling people is her special gift and she was highly successful as a credit collection agent. Twenty-one years old, with a great job bringing in real, grown-up money for the first time in her life, she did what every other bleach-blonde disco dancing queen would do, she ran out and bought a slinky little MGB convertible.