No Fixed Abode

Airstream 30FB Office Travel Trailer Perfect for Working From Anywhere

Airstream recently released its Flying Cloud 30FB Office floor plan, putting dedicated office space in its most popular product line. Replacing a sleeping area with office space, the idea was formulated due to the growing popularity of working remotely and the idea of digital nomadism.

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Camper Van Deliveries Up 125 Percent in November

Camper vans, ubiquitous homes on wheels for digital nomads, were up 125 percent in total shipments in November, according to the RV Industry Association. This was part of total RV shipments that finished the month with 42,513 units, a 43.4 percent increase over the 29,644 units shipped in November of last year.

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No Fixed Abode: No Home on the Ranger

Here’s that Ranger day
They told me about
And I laughed at the thought
That it might turn out
This way

Apologies to the Chairman Of The Board on that one, but I couldn’t help myself. You see, I never truly believed that the Ranger would return to this country. I absolutely did not believe that it would come back as an American-made product in a newly configured factory, during what amounts to the endgame senescence of its platform. This is the kind of against-all-odds urgency that one typically associates with desperately needed products like the K-car or the first-generation Ranger — vehicles that had to be rushed into showrooms because the dealerships were screaming bloody murder and the Japanese had moved from mere flensing to actual bone-eating.

This Ranger, on the other hand, will arrive in the market to find itself lined up against a few equally superannuated sluggards from Nissan and Toyota, the indifferently-received Colorado/Canyon twins, and… is there anybody else? The unibody Ridgeline? Is it even possible to make money in this segment? Why bother doing it, particularly when the Rangers could have been rushed over from Thailand in a matter of months in the event of another oil and/or confidence crisis?

Ours is not to reason why; ours is but to do and buy. Truth be told, I’m kind of excited about the Ranger, because I saw a bunch of pumped-up ones in Thailand and I was more than mildly impressed. If you could get it with a 3.7-liter V6 in addition to the 2.3L EcoBoost I don’t know if the Chevy dealers would even bother to order any Colorados for stock in 2019. There’s only one little problem: it’s far from cheap.

Which brings us to an unpleasant topic: How much is a compact pickup worth?

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No Fixed Abode: Marsupial Adventures of the Kapchai

“The kapchai menace must be stopped.” The fellow who shared that particular opinion in a major Malaysian newspaper will no doubt find that many people agree with him. I can see his point; after spending much of the last two weeks driving across Malaysia and Thailand I have come to loathe the sight of the things.

There is no gap in Kuala Lumpur’s molasses-like traffic so small that it will not immediately be filled with a swarm of the little motorcycles. Every lane change has to be accompanied by a constant iguana-eye monitoring of all four sides of one’s automobile lest it inadvertently lead to manslaughter — or worse yet, family-slaughter, since it’s common to see up to four people crowded onto a kapchai‘s thinly padded seat.

Yet the kapchai is the sole “mobility option” for millions of low-income people across Southeast Asia. The very best of them, the bad-ass 100-mph five-speed Yamahas and Hondas in their Repsol or Petronas liveries, cost about $2,100 brand new. The rest of them can be seen at roadside dealers in serviceable condition for between $300 and $500. Adjusted for local currency, they’re about the cost of a hundred meals sold by a roadside vendor. Imagine that you could solve your personal transportation needs for the cost of a hundred Big Macs, and you can easily see the appeal. If you then use the kapchai for a little smash-and-grab urban robbery, as many people do, it pays for itself very quickly. If you don’t… well, the operating costs are still very low.

I’d guess that about 95 percent of you are now asking yourselves, “So what exactly is a kapchai, anyway?” The best way to understand it: the kapchai is a kangaroo, and the kapchai is also a Toyota SUV. I’ll explain, of course.

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No Fixed Abode: What If They Held a Cheap-Car Party and Nobody Came?

Just a couple of weeks into my ECO 101 class, I knew that something was terribly wrong.

At the age of nineteen, I’d already worked for a few dealerships and I was on the way to opening up my own bike shop. Yet I knew at some level that I was profoundly ignorant of the levers that truly move the world. So I signed up for an economics class to learn about those levers.

I learned a lot of theories and concepts in that semester, most of them “proven” by long experience if not by experiment; much like climate science and astronomy, economics is one of those disciplines where much of the scientific method is rendered inaccessible for obvious reasons. Even as a kid, however, I could tell that pure economic theory, like pure Marxism, had no relation to the real world. I was shown a lot of charts where imaginary widget factories maximized output until they broke even on the last widget they made. I heard a lot about elastic and inelastic demand. Things were shown to be fungible, or perhaps not. But if there was a direct connection to the way business worked in my daily life, it must have been made of Larry Niven’s shadow-square wire.

Now, in my forties, I have come to the conclusion that ECO 101 should not be taught to anyone who has not already taken ECO 102, or perhaps owned a business, or maybe reached the age of retirement. ECO 101 contains information that is too dangerous to be used or acted upon in its purest form. The real world doesn’t play by the rules you learn in that class.

Want proof? Here’s some: apparently people won’t buy a brand-new $16,950 car if it’s listed for half price.

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No Fixed Abode: The Case For the American Car Abroad

It will be a day or two too late by the time you read this, but: Happy Independence Day! It’s been a very long time since I felt compelled to cloak my appreciation of this country in the kind of irony frequently employed by my autojourno colleagues on Twitter and elsewhere, and I certainly won’t start now. The United States is far from perfect and I am afraid that some of the changes made here over the past fifty years have been profoundly negative in their effects, but it remains the proverbial city on the hill for many of the world’s citizens. As the song says, I’ve been around the world and I, I, I, I… haven’t seen any other place where middle-class families own property, start businesses, and create wealth like they do here.

While I certainly understand how many of my coastal friends and acquaintances no longer feel that the American Dream exists for them or for anyone else, I also feel compelled to note that we are doing just fine here in the Midwest. Where I live, four-year-old children play unsupervised outside and the police shake your hand in the street. Some time ago I accidentally left a $275,000 Ferrari out in front of my house overnight with the windows down, the keys on the center console, and my wallet next to them. Needless to say, nothing happened. I know that’s par for the course inside Mark Zuckerberg’s gates but my neighborhood consists mostly of stay-at-home moms and mid-five-figure household incomes. Come back to the real America, if you like, but leave your emotional support animals, your addiction to food-as-virtue, and your army of domestic staff behind you. Out here, people raise human children instead of “furbabies,” thoughtlessly consume GMO produce, and clean their own bathrooms. It’s considered character-building.

I know you won’t do it. Nobody is going to change sides. We are too deeply divided now into Blue And Red Tribes. We judge incoming information based on how well it conforms to our existing beliefs. Want an example? How about this: For over six decades, the automakers have been predicting that increased emissions, safety, and fuel-consumption standards would have a negative impact on the bottom line. The media alternately ignored and lampooned them for saying so. Now those same automakers say that Trump’s policies will have a similar impact and the media is treating it the way the Catholic Church once treated an ex cathedra pronouncement.

My response to that? It’s this

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No Fixed Abode: Plate Tectonics of the Prestige Drift

It’s June, which means it’s the time of year for my son to visit his grandfather in South Carolina and spend a week at golf camp. Sometimes I have to spend the week working, sometimes I spent it traveling, and sometimes I get to spend it hanging out with my dad and his friends.

Most of them are cast from the same group of molds: either self-made or with only minor family advantages, a long history of executive positions or highly remunerative small business ownership, more millions left in the bank than they have years left in the tank. They’re not interested in art or literature, they have a casual and hilarious disrespect for modern social ideas, they maintain a sort of gruff good humor about everything from heart attacks to coastal hurricanes. We will not see their like again, which is kind of a shame.

Yesterday one of them came over to say hello, meet the grandchildren, and to ask me a couple of questions about his next vehicle purchase. I long ago figured out that these fellows don’t necessarily want my authentic opinion regarding the merits of the SL65 or the Continental GT. Rather, they want me to nod approvingly at whatever they’ve already decided to buy, at which point we can have a nice lunch and engage in some mutual appreciation of our good fortune in life, regardless of how unevenly said fortune is distributed.

This fellow was different. He came prepared: with notes, impressions, questions. He had hard financial limits in mind, which is vanishingly rare among a class of Baby Boomers who no longer bother to count pennies or Krugerrands. Most importantly, he gave me something to think about long after he’d left.

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No Fixed Abode: Is the Liberty Ready for Its Cherokee Moment?

Somewhere in my basement there’s an issue of Roundel, the BMW club magazine, that contains an extremely passionate and forceful article regarding a new vehicle from Munich. The author goes on in considerable detail regarding the new car’s size, weight, and insane complexity. He rails against the dilution of BMW’s Autobahn heritage and the compromises the firm is making to attract a wider audience. Lastly, he offers his sincere condolences to the shade-tree mechanics because this new car will be impossible to service anywhere but a dealership.

Those of you who read Roundel back in the day will no doubt guess that this flabby, super-computerized BMW was, in fact, the 1977 320i.

But here’s the thing: All of the complaints in the article were valid. It’s just that the E30 which followed made the E21 320i look fairly simple. The E36 was a rocketship compared to its predecessor and the E46 was a spaceship. Each time the cars changed, the enthusiast base swore loyalty to the relative simplicity and fitness-for-purpose of the old one. Then, as the stock of decent used inventory dwindled and the parts became impossible to find and the lap times continues to sink, that base made a slow and painful transition to the next model in line. This in no way invalidates criticism of the old cars. It’s just that for most people, they had no choice other than to upgrade. It’s possible to keep an old mechanical watch in daily use; it’s not tough at all to keep carrying a Remington-Rand-made Colt pistol from 1942. But cars are vastly more complex than either of those machines.

When the Jeep Liberty replaced the old “XJ” Cherokee, it was universally reviled as a cutesy piece of garbage better suited for the mall crawl than the rock crawl. Alas, tempus fugit and it’s now time for the old Liberty to get a second act.

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No Fixed Abode: The Machine That Changed the World

Oscar was orange; Grover was green. Agent 007 has no gadgets. Kramer was an agoraphobic named Kessler, and George was cooler than Jerry. It’s common for television shows (and long-running film series) to change in ways that become permanent and significant parts of their identity. When the original episodes or films don’t quite match up in retrospect with what people have come to expect, it’s called Early Installment Weirdness. “The first Puppy Bowl,” the TVTropes site reminds us, “did not have a Kitty Halftime Show.”

There’s plenty of Early Installment Weirdness in the car business — I can still remember seeing a 1953 Corvette for the first time, maybe when I was seven or eight, and saying “That’s not really a Corvette” to my father — but when I saw a very early Lexus RX300 in a parking lot last night I realized that Lexus in general, and the RX series in particular, really takes the cake in this area.

Which is important, because the RX300 is, in many ways, the machine that changed the automotive world into the “later installments” we know today.

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No Fixed Abode: Sleepy In CU-Ville

Genchi gembutsu. It’s a term I heard fairly often during my time in the Great Midwestern Sedan Factory and it means, more or less, “Go look at the issue.” In the years since, I’ve often heard “Agile coaches” and “Scrum masters” in IT talk about “Gemba Walks,” which are supposed to be the same thing. The problem is that software development is nothing like a factory floor, system administration even less so, and if I have to hear one more dimwitted IBM consultant with a two-year DeVry degree lecturing me about “how Japanese manufacturers do things” I’m going to drag said consultant into the paint booth at Marysville and let him drown in whatever shade of grey is being indifferently sprayed on the cars that day. It’s cargo culture at its most pathetic, garnished with a sprig of racism.

Yet there is more than enough truth in the original application of genchi gembutsu. If you’re hearing about a problem on the factory floor, don’t waste time talking about it in the office. Go to the place and look at the problem. Until you do that, you’re just guessing.

It was with that concept in mind that I borrowed a three-row CUV recently for a 1,300-mile trip around the Midwest. Over and over again I’ve decried the modern fetish for massive unibody crossovers, but rarely have I driven one for more than a few miles at a time. This seemed like a good time to “go to the place” and “look at the problem.” I took this vehicle and tested it on its ability to substitute for vehicles both smaller and larger. A week later, I remain shaken, if not stirred, by the experience.

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No Fixed Abode: Here Comes The Private-Private Partnership

If you’re a driver in a major urban area, you probably already know all about the nasty creature known as the “public-private partnership.” In a nutshell, it’s a way for a private company to make money by issuing you citations on behalf of a municipality. There isn’t space on these electronic pages to detail the many ways in which public-private partnerships have veered off the tracks into profiteering, racketeering, bribery, and many other forms of outright criminality. In a way, it’s entirely appropriate; after all, the original “public-private partnership” was the European Letter Of Marque that permitted any yahoo with a sailboat and a cannon or two to become a “privateer” — in other words, a pirate.

It seems only reasonable that someone would eventually come up with a “private-private partnership” that uses technology to defend the hapless motorist rather than burden him further. Something similar happened years ago with radar and laser guns: insurance companies, including GEICO, gave free laser guns to the police in the hopes that the guns would be used to write tickets and thus enable them to raise the rates of their customers. At the same time, Cincinnati Microwave and other companies were selling radar detectors that cost more than a speeding ticket but less than the inevitable insurance hike.

The modern successor to Mike Valentine and Cincinnati Microwave: A 19-year-old with a website, of course.

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No Fixed Abode: The Nineteen-Inch Mystery

As you would expect, most of the reaction to Cadillac’s announcement of the 550-horsepower CT6 V-Sport centered around its engine, a “clean-sheet” 4.2-liter V8 that is either meant to slavishly ape the current German fetish for diminutive, twin-blown bent-eights or cash in on all that nostalgia for the Northstar and its litany of opportunities for improvement. I’m not sure which.

I don’t know about you, but I think it makes sense to develop a whole new powerplant for the CT6 because, if there is one thing that GM does not already have, it is an exhaustively developed, amazingly compact, remarkably lightweight, and impressively powerful V8 engine. Honestly, the whole thing reminds me of the time that I accidentally bought a used DVD of “Cloverfield” at a Blockbuster Video sale only to get home and discover that not only did I already own a used DVD of Cloverfield, the one I’d just bought had a big scratch in it. Oh well. If nothing else, this new CT6 V-Sport will increase the alacrity with which the tatted-up part-time-barista grandchildren of Boomers await their death and subsequent estate distribution. Grandpa might have left you the ’57 Strat, but he left me that wacky thing that looks like a normal Cadillac Escalade but sits really low on the ground for some reason!

The Son O’ Northstar wasn’t the only technological innovation reported in the press release, however. When the CT6 V-Sport hits the streets, it will feature the largest front brakes ever fitted to a production automobile, eclipsing the 17.3-inch rotors of the Lamborghini Urus with a 19-inch system sourced from Brembo. Even more surprisingly, the whole thing fits snugly inside 20-inch wheels. This new innovation was reported across hundreds of media outlets in the automotive, business, and popular-interest press.

There is just one little issue: it can’t be true.

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No Fixed Abode: Night of the Potholes

In So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish, Douglas Adams introduces the reader to the character of Rob McKenna. Rob is a truck driver; he is also a Rain God. It rains every day of McKenna’s life because the clouds want to be near him. Later on in the book, McKenna starts earning a healthy living from vacation resorts, which pay him to stay away.

I can’t say it’s rained every day of my life. I can say that the weather in my home town improves dramatically the minute I leave. Last week, while I was riding a Road Glide around Los Angeles in a recurring rainstorm, there was an early spring in Ohio. Temperatures went from the mid-twenties to the mid-seventies pretty much overnight and stayed there until my plane was about halfway back home, at which point it started to rain and the mercury dropped twenty degrees. I am not kidding about this.

On the road home, I saw a two-foot-wide hole in the freeway where there had previously been no hole whatsoever. I drove around it. Shortly afterwards, I was confronted by an odd tableau: at least six cars pulled over, covering both shoulders, with their drivers in conversations ranging from dazed to agitated. All of the cars were tilted to some degree, because they all had at least one flat tire. In my rearview mirror, I saw a Subaru coasting to a stop on the right shoulder behind me. It, too, was tilted.

Turns out that was just the beginning.

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No Fixed Abode: Auto Shows In The Time Of Icebergs

I left Detroit at 4:51AM on Tuesday morning, pointed south for a three-hour drive that would terminate with the beginning of my workday. I could have taken the morning off, but I like to surround my auto shows with a little bit of deliberate misery, lest I inadvertently become too comfortable in the entirely artificial universe of public relations and journalist-pampering that seems to gain steam every year even as the rest of the event comes to resemble the petal-dropping Enchanted Rose in the spare wing of the Beast’s castle. Thus the 4 AM wakeup and the trudge out to the frozen parking lot, hunchbacked with suit bags and audibly creaking from every joint, Danger Girl trailing behind me with the wide-eyed stare common to prisoners of war and victims of spousal abuse, even if it’s mostly musical in nature.

We were not the only people starting our morning, and our truck, before dawn. Long-time TTAC readers may remember that General Motors and a few other automakers pay the travel expenses of quite a few autojournos in exchange for obtaining control of their narratives. Most of them arrive a few days before the actual show, all the better to maximize the free meals and curated experiences. On Saturday, while my son and I were driving up to a skatepark in Cleveland for an evening’s worth of BMX riding, I’d seen a former colleague of mine whining on Instagram about the less-than-five-star nature of his complimentary accommodations at the GM Renaissance Marriott. The only way I could think of to register my disappointment was to change my own hotel reservation to the absolute cheapest room available on Hotels.com: $47 a night for the Allen Park Motor Lodge.

The motel, and the room, turned out to be kinda-sorta okay, although the bed didn’t really make the grade for two people with a hardware store’s worth of screws and bolts in their bones. Here’s the interesting part: I’d expected that most of my fellow motel-dwellers would be engaged in some form of recreational depravity, but in actuality the bulk of them were construction and service-industry workers taking advantage of the weekly rates. They were early to bed and early to rise. Our work-truck white Silverado, parked in a line of pickups that stretched all the way across the motel’s road frontage, was notable only for being slightly newer than the rest. As we backed out of our spot, I saw a few Carhartt-clad fellows trudging out to the Colorados and F-150s and Rams, tool belts slung over their shoulders, rubbing their eyes and exhaling cloudy yawns of crystallized steam towards the moon.

Back to life, back to reality. But there was a bit of irony in it for me, because this Detroit show was the first one in a long time to acknowledge the connection between the polished artifice of the press-event turntable and the early-morning trudge to one’s truck.

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No Fixed Abode: Fear of a $160 Planet

It sounds like a sci-fi novel, or maybe even a Fredrick Forsyth knockoff written during the Seventies heyday of Cold War action/adventure books: Six Months of the Equinox. You can imagine the plot, right? Something happens to freeze the planet’s orbit at a certain point. The seasons stop. Mayhem ensues. There’s a machine that might be able to restart the orbit, but a cabal of Russian oligarchs makes a plan to seize it. Only one man — let’s call him Chest Rockwell — can save us.

The reality behind the title is nearly as frightening: It’s the half-year that my current wife, known to all and sundry as Danger Girl even though (SPOILER ALERT) she is actually old enough to vote, traded in one of her Tahoes for a Chevrolet crossover in an attempt to balance her budget. This is the kind of thing that I typically associate with bubbleheads who can’t do math, but Danger Girl is a CPA with extensive financial training. Was she right to do it? It’s a relevant question, because — as you’ll see below — it’s one that we could all be asking ourselves three years from now.

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No Fixed Abode: Guess You Won't Be Superchargin' After All, Pal

I didn’t learn about the “California No” until I started writing about cars. I was raised on the East Coast, where people have no trouble saying “No” whatsoever. There’s even a song about it. In Ohio, people might be apologetic about it but they will still forthrightly tell you, “I’m sorry, I’m not going to buy from you,” or “I don’t want to meet with you about that.”

That’s not how California works. The so-called “California No” is simply a drawn-out pas de deux in which someone avoids responding directly to your question because they are unwilling to directly refuse or reject you. Supposedly, the California No and the Asian No are related. I couldn’t say. All I can tell you is that I have zero patience for the California No, particularly when it comes from people working in the automotive PR or journalism “spaces,” and I will make attempts to California-No me as uncomfortable as humanly possible, without exception.

To this fine Golden State institution, you can now add the related “California Prohibit,” which is best exemplified by Tesla’s new directive regarding “commercial” use of its Supercharger facilities.

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No Fixed Abode: Oh, That the Roman People Had but a Single Neck - or a Single Transportation Choice!

“In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women.” Thus spake Tony Montana, anticipating the recent avalanche of sexual harassment claims by a few decades. What ol’ Scarface didn’t bother to tell us is that, for some people, the power is enough. For that lesson, we have O’Brien in Orwell’s 1984, who tells us that the Party seeks power for its own sake. “The object of power is power,” he says.

Those words floated to the front of my mind when I read about Chicago’s . The city was already charging 52 cents in tax per ride — plus five bucks per airport pickup — but now it will be charging 67 cents per ride. Starting in 2019, that total will increase to 72 cents.

What could the city do with that extra 15 cents? It’s already scheduled to receive more than 70 million dollars in ride-sharing taxes. What could the justification possibly be for upping the ante? And which of the Chicago machine’s many, many incompetently-operated programs could possibly have the moral right to receive this unexpected bounty?

If you know Chicago, you know the answer. But even if you don’t know Chicago, chances are that you can make an educated guess.

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No Fixed Abode: They Did It, But It Didn't Have to Be Done

Back in the spring of 2012, I penned a sort of existential whine about the absolutely unnecessary idea of a Lamborghini SUV. In the five-and-a-half years since then, it’s often looked like the “Urus” would be canceled or at least shelved indefinitely — and why not? Under the protective umbrella of VW Group, Lamborghini had absolutely no need to balance the books with a Me-Too Iguana Mommytruck.

Even more importantly, the company’s core product has become absolutely first-rate. If you haven’t driven a Huracan, you owe it to yourself to at least try three rental laps in Las Vegas or elsewhere. The Huracan Performante is, quite possibly, the most exciting and emotionally involving exotic car since the demise of the Ferrari 458 Speciale, while the Aventador S neatly balances the demands of outrageousness and everyday usability.

If you’d put a Urus in showrooms next to the tired-looking-from-Day-2 Gallardo and just-a-bit-plain Murcielago, there might have been a bit of sad synergy across the product lines. Maybe. Half a decade ago, Lamborghini wasn’t second fiddle to Ferrari so much as it was the weekday shift janitor at the symphony. But now it’s Ferrari that struggles with issues of public perception and dealer gouging and unfocused product offerings while the German-Italians from Sant’Agata keep raising the bar to stratospheric levels.

The Urus will be an exception to this new tradition of excellence. It’s a deeply compromised product, a sort of mish-mash between the Audi S8 and VW Tiguan and God knows what else. Its primary competition in the marketplace will surely be the related-under-the-skin Bentley Bentayga and Porsche Cayenne, two vehicles that I suspect are made deliberately gormless for the same reason the so-called “419 scams” are so obviously fraudulent — to weed out the cognoscenti and ensure that only the least discerning customers make it through the purchase experience. It’s not good news for anybody except my colleagues at the buff books, who will have a chance to escape the winter blahs with a trip to Italy. As a genuine fan of the Lamborghini brand and lineup, however, I can’t say that I am anything other than disappointed at Lamborghini’s decision to develop and sell this product.

Which raises, for me at least, a question: How can I continue to respect Lamborghini in a world where the Urus is providing the bulk of the sales volume? The answer is simple.

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No Fixed Abode: LaneWatch, We Hardly Knew Ye

I don’t know who coined the term — I suspect it was Car and Driver, which was then at an all-time peak of editorial excellence — but this is probably one of those cases where success has many fathers, and the child in this case was the phrase “idiot light.”

Let’s say that you were a new-car buyer in 1977. The vast majority of the cars you saw in a dealership would have just two gauges: speedometer and fuel level. Any other information was conveyed in binary fashion by a set of light-up warnings. The typical Seventies American car would have TEMP (for overheating), OIL (for lack of oil pressure), ALT (alternator/battery), and BRAKE (for low brake fluid), but some models had additional lights for low coolant and other functions.

The self-appointed automotive cognoscenti were very contemptuous of these lights, because they didn’t convey much information and they usually didn’t convey it until things had gotten drastic. Why not have a temperature gauge to let you know that your car was getting hot on the way up the Grapevine? Or an oil-pressure gauge, to give you a general idea of your engine health? Why couldn’t the driver be trusted to know the real information and to act accordingly?

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No Fixed Abode: Why Be a Wacker?

It’s one of the great scenes in modern cinema: Kevin Costner as Eliot Ness and Sean Connery as Malone, the beat cop who requires no proof of Eliot’s claim to be a Treasury Agent because, “Who would claim to be that, who was not?”

Yet there are people who falsely claim to be police, for various and nefarious purposes ranging from to getting a discount on lunch to raping 11 women. This kind of offense is punished with all possible severity, and for the most understandable of reasons: a society where we cannot easily recognize police is a society where enforcement of the law will become increasingly dangerous for all parties involved.

Then you have the crowd that doesn’t want to actually impersonate a cop; rather, they simply want to be briefly “mistaken” for a cop on the freeway, often for no reason other than the petty narcissism of believing they are frightening or impressing fellow motorists. As you’d expect, these people gravitate towards used police cars, which they often retrofit to vaguely resemble undercover or unmarked units. It’s a common enough practice that the Internet has coined a word to define the practitioner: “Wacker.”

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No Fixed Abode: How the Chinese Missed Their Window of Opportunity (but Will Come in Your Back Door Anyway)

There’s a Land Rover clone — or is it a Land Cruiser clone — coming our way. Built in a low-cost country where the principle of “just good enough” has held sway ever since the Communists took over, it’s cheap, rugged-looking, and certain to feed aggressively on the bottom of the SUV-buyer ocean. You might not like the idea of supporting an oppressive regime, and you might not like the idea of trusting your life to something that was slapped together in a hurry, but other people aren’t as smart and discerning as you are and they will ensure that the new product is a roaring success.

Oh, I’m not talking about the Trumpchi. I’m reading automotive history circa 2003. What, you don’t remember the CrossLander? Well, my friend, you are in for a treat — one that has a surprising amount of relevance to China’s entry to the American auto market.

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No Fixed Abode: Keep On Hittin' That Shuttle

Did you hear the one about the autonomous shuttle in Las Vegas? It ran for two hours before it was in a crash.

Did you hear the clarifying detail? The crash was not the shuttle’s fault and the other driver was cited.

Did you get the underlying message of all this? The hybrid model of autonomous vehicles sharing the road with human drivers is doomed to failure.

The only question is this: How much damage will have to be caused, and how many lives will be lost, before we accept that?

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No Fixed Abode: Since You Won't Eat Your Vegetables, Honda Is Eating Crow With the NSX

Psst… Have I got a deal for you! There’s a low-profile $30,000 factory incentive out there on a really great mid-engined supercar. You could be looking at just $1,500 a month on a lease, which is about what you’d pay to buy a new Corvette Grand Sport over five years. Or you might get a car with a $165k sticker for just $122,000. Are you FREAKING OUT right now? Or are you waiting for me to tell you which one?

Well, let’s see… It’s not the Ford GT, because those are sold out. It’s not the Ferrari 488GTB, which is on a waiting list and subject to $100k worth of additional dealer markup. It’s not the Lamborghini Huracan, used examples of which are fetching close to MSRP. It’s not even the Audi R8, which has some nice lease programs at the moment but which still generally sells for sticker or close to it.

You know what I’m going to tell you, of course. You know it’s the Acura NSX. From day one it’s been a tough sell and, while I’d like to think that the 2017 Road & Track Performance Car Of The Year accolade helped the showroom traffic a bit, I’d be naive to think that it was enough to move the needle too far. Starting next year, NSXes will be special order only. If you want a car out of dealer stock, now’s the time to do it and Honda will throw $30k worth of cash on the frunk to make it happen.

Maybe it’s time to ask why this state of affairs came to pass — but I bet you already know that, too.

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No Fixed Abode: Sorry, ISeeCars, but When It Comes to Electric Car Resale, It's Still Dog Bites Man

Over the past twenty or so years, I have come to firmly believe that the largest problem facing humanity is lack of consciousness. Sounds trite, doesn’t it?

But I’m not talking about “mindfulness” or “caring” or any of that New Age woo-woo. What I mean by “consciousness” is the same thing that Douglas Hofstadter means: the ability to temporarily step outside the actions you are performing, or the thoughts you are having, and consider them from a distance, as a whole. If you can’t do that — if you are unable or unwilling to occasionally evaluate your behavior, your preconceptions, and your desires as if they belonged to someone else — then you are truly no more intelligent than a dog or a computer program or a hurricane.

The conscious individual periodically steps out outside his situation so he can consider whether what he is doing makes any sense whatsoever. You can think of it as “the state of stuckness,” as Robert Pirsig did, or you can call it a “strange loop” as Hofstadter does, but you should learn how to do it. Without that consciousness, you will always be the victim of your environment and whatever information you consume. Lack of consciousness makes people susceptible to everything from autonomous-car crashes to investment bubbles to conspiracy theories.

In this day and age, one of the biggest pitfalls facing the unconscious among us is susceptibility to so-called “fake news,” which I will define here as any news that reinforces our beliefs and cherished ideas but which cannot stand up to even a modest bit of examination. Fake news is the processed sugar of brainfood and, just like processed sugar, we consume it because it makes us feel good in the short term. (Believe me, I know.) What follows is the story of a particularly tempting morsel of processed sugar. Call it a funnel cake, maybe, one that was eagerly consumed everywhere from The Drive to CBS News.

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No Fixed Abode: The Case For Tesla

Last week I showed you how some electric car “journalists” were reaping massive rewards for recommending Tesla over other electric cars. I also showed you how poorly they reacted to being found out. My coverage of Electrek’s Fred Lambert ended up being linked, referenced, or just flat-out copied in outlets as diverse as the WSJ and Zero Hedge.

As I had feared, however, most of the aforementioned media sources used my articles as stones on which to grind their ax, not mine. My concern was with the ever-more-permeable wall between automotive journalism and outright PR/promotion; theirs was with Tesla as an automaker and/or business entity. For me, this was a story about double dipping, but for them it was yet another example of reality distortion on the part of Elon Musk and his secretive cabal.

There are plenty of Tesla skeptics out there, including this site’s august founder, who once referred to Model S early ordering as a “Ponzi scheme,” and two former Editors-In-Chief of TTAC. I’m not one of them. Sure, I’m happy to admit that the company has a long history of playing fast and loose with the facts, and I’ll also freely stipulate the idea that Tesla as a whole is so entirely dependent on government subsidies as to be completely unviable without the steady drip of corporate welfare. What I want to suggest to you is that none of that matters, as conclusively proven by a series of trips I recently took to Western Europe and Northern California.

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No Fixed Abode: I'm Going to Give This Away, and You're Going to Help Me

An army, they say, is always best equipped to fight its last battle. Perhaps that explains why I spent approximately three hundred and fifty dollars on February 17, 2014 to buy a Britax Pinnacle 90 car seat. Not that I was dissatisfied with the Safety1st Air seat that had shielded him from a blizzard of flying glass and very possibly prevented him from a fatal head trauma just forty-three days prior. Far from it. But I wanted to put John in the absolute best car seat money could buy from that day forward. After all, I’d spent about two thousand bucks on the LaJoie custom seat in my little Plymouth Neon — shouldn’t I go out of my way to find the car seat that would do the best job of minimizing any future impacts?

As fate would have it, my son and I were involved in just one minor crash in the three and a half years that followed, courtesy of an amiable stoner who bumped his Mazda2 into the back of my Accord at just above walking pace during this past winter. Although the Pinnacle is rated for children up to 4’11”, John already feels cramped in it at four-four, so earlier this year I swapped the big Britax out for the smaller Freeway SGL booster seat.

What to do with the Pinnacle? I could sell it on Craigslist, trade it in at one of the used-kids-stuff places. Or I could try to pass along a little bit of the good karma that has attended me and my boy ever since we bought it. Which is where you, the TTAC reader, come in.

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No Fixed Abode: To Cool Off the Planet, Just Add Hot Hatches

As I write this, one of my favorite race tracks is entirely underwater. Many years ago, I wrote for a Houston-based automotive website and we used MSR Houston as a testing facility. It was also the track where I nervously watched my little brother start his first wheel-to-wheel race back in 2013. Now the start/finish flag station looks out over a mirror-finished hurricane lake stretching to the horizon.

Every time something like this happens in the United States it tends to get people talking about climate change and what can be done to slow or halt the process. Predictably, the privately-owned automobile comes in for a fair share — maybe more than a fair share — of criticism as a result. I couldn’t tell you if the internal combustion engine actually makes a difference to the climate, and I suspect the facts are less clear than they are made out to be, but it doesn’t matter. Enough people believe in anthropogenic global warming (AGW) for public policy to be affected as a result. Nobody in Salem was really a witch but that little fact didn’t save anybody from being burned at the stake. The same is true when it comes to climate change and the automobile.

Sports cars and performance cars are a favorite target of the save-the-earth crowd, of course, but I think I can make the argument that increased availability of fast cars in general — and “hot hatches” in particular — can actually make a positive impact on carbon-dioxide emissions. Are you skeptical? Read on, my friend.

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No Fixed Abode: The Trackhawk Tax

One of my favorite writers once ruefully noted that “in the end, whether you are loved or not is determined by the shape of your skull.” To which I would add: and the way you know you are loved is whether or not somebody will take out their wallet for you.

Being a wife usually pays better than being a mistress, which pays better than being a girlfriend, which pays better than being a Tinder date. Not that money is precisely equal to love — but in most cases cash speaks louder than poetry.

For that reason, it’s fascinating to use pricing as a window into human desire. With most consumer goods, of course, there are two prices. There’s the MSRP, which is fantasy, and there’s the “street price,” or actual transaction price, which is reality. The sticker price of a new Impala or Taurus or Sonata is considerably above the price that the vast majority of people are willing to pay, but on a 458 Speciale it’s a screaming bargain. These are exceptions that prove a surprising but durable rule: most of the time, automakers price their cars remarkably close to market reality. We take this for granted when in reality it’s proof of just how much intelligence and effort goes into product planning. Consider the fact that Rolex is widely acknowledged as having the lowest discount rate of any major watch brand, yet it’s usually possible to get between 10 and 20 percent off sticker at most dealers. That same amount of pricing flexibility gets Bloomberg in a tizzy when it’s applied to mass-market cars.

Assuming, therefore, that we can usually rely on manufacturer pricing as a rough yardstick for consumer desire, it’s absolutely fascinating to see how Fiat Chrysler Automobiles positions its most powerful sedans and SUVs. It is also very depressing for anybody who believes in an automotive future that contains anything but jacked-up Me-Too-Iguana-Boxes.

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No Fixed Abode: Criminal Minds of Traffic and Credit

A few years ago I heard the phrase “future time orientation” and in that moment the scales, as they say, dropped from my eyes. I’d always known the concept but I didn’t realize it had an actual name. Well, it does, and that phrase is “future time orientation.” Put simply, it’s how real the future is to you, and how much thoughts of the future affect your present behavior.

The more I’ve read about future time orientation, the more I realize it is pretty much the defining characteristic of a human being. The more real the future is to you, the harder you will work, the more you will save, and the more you will moderate your behavior. Lack of future time orientation damn near qualifies as a mental illness and it turns you into a loser in any case. I can speak personally about that.

When my grandfather was 45 years old, he was just eight years from a fully-funded retirement that would see him driving Cadillacs and enjoying life without reservations until he died well into his nineties. When my father was 45, he had practiced 20 years of fiscal discipline. After twenty further years of fiscal discipline he retired to a plantation where he aimlessly steers a Benz between the gym and the golf course every day.

I, on the other hand, have more than one hundred pairs of dress shoes and I’ve spent enough money on racing to pay off my house three times over. I will have to work until the day I die because every time I’ve had money in my pocket it’s turned into a Porsche or a Kawasaki or a Savile Row suit or a massive house party with free liquor and steaks for 150 people. I have almost zero future time orientation. The only reason I pay my bills is because I’ve always managed to have a woman in the house to remind me to pay my bills. Otherwise, they wouldn’t get paid and I would just buy a bunch of ZX-10RR Winter Livery Snowflake Editions. Actually, as of this writing I think my son has more money in the bank than I do, and he is eight years old. He will be retired at 54. He can come visit me at the Wal-Mart, where I will be a greeter.

As low as my future time orientation is, however, there are people out there who are even worse. And you can actually identify them from a distance on the freeway.

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No Fixed Abode: All The Unreliable Ways In Which We Talk About Reliability

How did you celebrate Warren Brown Day? What? You didn’t know about Warren Brown Day? Well, my friend, allow me to fill you in. If you are a subject of the Washington, DC metro area, then June 15th was officially Warren Brown Day for you. The day celebrates Warren Brown’s contributions to automotive journalism. This came as a great surprise to me; as far as I knew, Mr. Brown’s primary contribution to automotive journalism was finding a way to get around the Washington Post‘s policy on accepting luxury travel.

It occurred to me that maybe the city was honoring a different Warren Brown, so I went back and checked the original article in American Journalism Review to make sure that I had the right guy. Once I started re-reading it, however, I quickly forgot all about Mr. Brown and his Italian vacation, because the most important story Frank Greves tells in his overview of automotive journalism has nothing whatsoever to do with the perks of the business.

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No Fixed Abode: Quo Vadis, STi?

Earlier this week, I fielded a question regarding German hot hatches. A few commenters suggested that I had made a mistake by not recommending the Subaru WRX or STi as an alternative to the Golf R and Focus RS. After all, I’d been perfectly content to recommend a Subaru as an alternative to a Volkswagen just a week before. So why not suggest an STI in place of an RS? Was it the long-dormant Euro-snob in me surfacing unexpectedly, like a Kraken slouching up from dark water to terrify the innocents on shore with its repugnant and vicious countenance? Or had I simply forgotten about the mere existence of the twin turbo compacts?

With regards to the first of these two scenarios, I can only assure the readership I’ve repented of my youthful Euro-snobbery to a degree that would make a post-Room-101 Winston Smith weep over his Victory Gin. With regards to the second scenario, I will only say this: somebody has forgotten about the WRX and STi, and that somebody is the corporate person known as Subaru of America.

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No Fixed Abode: The Doctor's Kia and the Patient's Porsches

My father had a lot of career advice for me growing up, all of which I cheerfully ignored as I planned a future as a bike-shop owner or folk guitarist. He thought I should go to work for Proctor&Gamble. Sell soap to the masses. Climb the corporate hierarchy to the C-suite. Own a tasteful but extravagant home in Cincinnati’s most exclusive neighborhood. This was bad advice. I learned a long time ago that I don’t have the bow-and-scrape mentality required for success in a corporation.

You know what Dad should have told me instead? He should have told me to be a doctor. I have all the required characteristics: arrogance, blind confidence, a lack of empathy, and a willingness to forget about people as soon as I walk out of a room. By and large, doctors are terrible people. I should know. I’ve spent more time in the hospital than your average late-stage cancer patient.

Robert Ringer once called medical school “a place where people are trained to think they are infallible” — or something like that. He was right. Doctors are notorious for being poor stewards of their money due to simple overconfidence in their own instincts and innate superiority. Thirty years ago, when long-term open-ended leasing was a veritable art form of forcible financial sodomy, the most sadistic practitioner of that art in my area was a storefront that called itself “Physicians Leasing.” They put our local doctors in loaded W126 Benzes for $400/month. Every two years they’d swap the docs out into new Benzes. Further and further underwater our local physicians went, until the final mid-five-figure bill came due. Luckily, it was an era of skyrocketing home equity.

Doctors love their fancy cars, that’s for sure. But I recently found a website that argues an extreme but interesting case: the most money a physician should spend on a car is five grand, period, point blank.

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No Fixed Abode: They Paved the Auto Show, And Put Up An Exclusive Preview

Walking through Brooklyn, your humble author was confronted by a sign on a building that said, “We stay awesome 24/7, but we are only available in person,” followed by the company’s business hours. There are two ways to view that sort of arrant idiocy. The first is to shrug one’s shoulders and just chalk it up to the sort of cutesy, infantile, Millennial-focused marketing that has turned Brooklyn from a place where my mother was actually shot at in 1970 merely for wearing her Women’s Army Corps — but Mommy’s neither one of those, I’ve known her all these years! — Class A officer’s uniform to a sort of supervised playground for losers whose sheltered ineptitude has combined with the realities of a flaccid job market to suspend them in kindergarten gaffa until the parents run out of home equity with which to sustain them.

(That’s quite a sentence there, ain’t it? You won’t get combinations of Cheap Trick and Kate Bush jokes in Motor Trend, trust me.)

Alternately, you can be a bit more perceptive and/or distrustful about the whole matter. You might take it as a sign of a corporate culture where employees are, in fact, expected to “ stay awesome 24/7,” where everybody is judged on how infrequently they have an incorrect thought, even when they are off work. We’re rapidly approaching a day where we are never truly away from our jobs. You can be fired from your job for simply saying something that people don’t like during your private time; several years ago I had a public Facebook argument with two car-magazine writers that resulted in one of them calling my day job and making a “special request” to have me fired. (He was told to get stuffed, by the way.)

In other words, we now live in a world where corporations expect to have the kind of control over reality that was once just the nightmare imagination of George Orwell. Everything is now “curated,” which is a nice way of saying controlled. And that, in a nutshell, is why most of the “New York auto show” did not actually happen at the New York Auto Show.

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No Fixed Abode: No Matter How Far Wrong You've Gone, You Can Always Turn Around

I was still in my 20s, browsing my local library’s jazz catalog with what I hoped was an open mind, when I found Brian Jackson and Gil Scott-Heron’s “Winter In America” tucked between Wynton Marsalis and Chick Corea. I had a vague idea of who Scott-Heron was from my years in school, so I snagged it, put the CD in my Fox on the way home, and I was … struck dumb. This was something new for me, both musically and politically. In the years since, I’ve often thought that if God truly loved me he would have given me Gil Scott-Heron’s steady baritone instead of my over-modulated tenor.

In the years that followed, I persevered as a fan of Scott-Heron through the man’s ups and downs. Shortly before his death, he stunned me and everybody else again with I’m New Here, a heartfelt but judiciously studied effort that was aimed with laser precision at rap fans and the regular-at-Yoshi’s crowd alike. In that album’s title track, Scott-Heron gathers up what is left of his voice and growls, “No matter how far wrong you’ve gone / you can always turn around.” It was a knowingly ironic statement from a man who could clearly foresee his imminent death from AIDS-related complications, but it was also a final benediction, a last bit of weary advice from a man who had long viewed himself as a prophet without honor in his own community.

That phrase — “No matter how far wrong you’ve gone / you can always turn around” — has weighed heavily on me lately, for any number of reasons. I have a few friends, some more dear to me than others, who would benefit mightily from a serious application of that advice. But since this is at least nominally a blog about cars, let’s talk about what it means to our four-wheeled decisions, instead of how it might apply to relationships that should have been dropped in the Marianas Trench years ago.

Yes, let’s do that.

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No Fixed Abode: For Me But Not For Thee

“One day in Maryland about four years ago, Carr was teaching his 16-year-old daughter how to drive when two police cars went rocketing by on the interstate, doing 80 in a 55 mph zone without lights on.” From that tiny seed — which, let’s face it, is planted about fifty thousand times a day on American roads — a great tree grew. Soldier and veteran Glen Carr now spends a significant portion of his time photographing illegally-parked police cars. It’s hard to think of a more quintessentially American thing: a man comes back from war and decides to fixate on some injustice, major or minor. It’s a story that in various forms has underpinned everything from Victorian novels to the movie Walking Tall.

What makes Carr’s jihad so engaging and admirable? Perhaps it’s the certain knowledge that he is doomed to fail. At best, he’s gonna get tired of documenting these quotidian injustices. At worst, some cop is going to shoot him dead when Carr pulls out his camera then claim he thought it was a gun. You can’t fight City Hall. Illegal vehicle operation by police officers isn’t going to stop any time soon. It might not stop until every cop car is fully autonomous. Maybe not even then. Does everybody remember the quote from Blade Runner? “If you’re not a cop, you’re little people!”

Meanwhile, for the little people in the UK, things are about to get significantly more strict.

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No Fixed Abode: The Cost of the Cap and the Price of Premier

Now after all these years, and no matter what damage it does to the B&B’s conception of me as a redneck reactionary from Bumpkin, Ohio, the story can finally be told: I was a full thirteen and a half years old when I first set foot in an honest-to-nine-pound-baby-Jesus pickup truck. Not the front seat of said all-American conveyance, mind you. The bed of a pickup truck.

The scenario was this: At the time, my high school was about 50-percent residents of a new tournament golf course and about 50-percent residents of the farms that didn’t get absorbed into said course. My pal Brent was dating a hillbilly girl from across the tracks. She had a stunning friend. I suggested a double date. The friend agreed, presumably driven by the kind of self-destructive farm-bound boredom that makes rural kids steal tractors, torture animals, and ingest crystal meth.

One of the girls’ fathers agreed to drive us to the local theater. He showed up at my friend’s house behind the wheel of a light-blue Dodge Ram 150 2WD Regular Cab, festooned in country fashion with a bubble-windowed cap in a fetching combination of gloss white and dull rust. There were silhouettes moving behind those bubble windows. I turned to run; I’d heard a plot summary of Deliverance from my father. But my friend grabbed my shoulder and dragged me to where the overalls-wearing father was dropping the tailgate to reveal not a pack of snarling hounds or a toothless rapist but our dates for the evening, prettily perched on a pair of carpeted boxes covering the wheelwells. “Get in,” Farmer Dad growled.

“I … don’t think I can,” I replied.

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No Fixed Abode: One Hundred And Thirteen Pounds Of Pain

It’s one of those mysteries that’s really only mysterious to people who don’t understand the American auto market: Why didn’t Mazda bring us the NB-generation coupe? And why didn’t they make a true NC coupe at all? The answer, of course, is very simple. The United States is a big place with unique regulations. If you want to sell a car here, particularly one that would crash differently from the car you’re already selling, you’ve got to put in some real time and money for compliance with those regulations.

There’s also the matter of scale. It’s not that difficult for Mazda to release a small-batch car like the NB coupe in Japan where it has absolute control of the dealer networks and the ability to ship parts from a central warehouse to a service area that’s about 10 percent smaller than the state of California. Things are different in the land of the PowerStroke. Every new vehicle is a major commitment.

Mazda’s product planners didn’t think a hardtop Miata would sell in significant numbers, so they left it at home. The retractable-top NC Miata, on the other hand, was a great idea and it did very well. And now we have a far handsomer take on the same idea, built on a car that most of the pundits agree is a better and more enjoyable drive than its predecessor. So what’s the problem?

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No Fixed Abode: The Perks (And Perils) Of Protectionist Policies

“Like any good capitalist, I firmly believe that automakers need competition to produce their best and most innovative work.” That’s what my colleague and occasional pal Stef Schrader on Jalopnik wrote yesterday, in a column titled Protectionism Is Only Good If You Love Really Terrible Cars. I doubt neither Stef’s sincerity nor her diligence; she hits all the traditional marks in her piece, from Allegro to Trabant, and she does it with style.

I am not a good capitalist. Not any longer.

For most of my life, I was; I’ve been mostly self-employed since I was 19, and I’ve never asked for help from anybody save for three weeks’ worth of unemployment payments in 1995. I always looked at life as a battle that went to the strongest, and I never felt inadequate in the face of the challenge.

Once I became a father, however, I started wondering about my son’s prospects, and the prospects of his contemporaries. What if they didn’t have the strength, or the luck, that I’ve had? Should they be just tossed aside by the global economy, discarded forever just because they couldn’t win a race to the bottom with seven billion other desperate souls?

If the former president of the Miami University Entrepreneurial Society (yes, guilty as charged) can read Adbusters and start worrying about factory conditions around the globe, perhaps that means everything out there is up for grabs. And it’s worth asking the question: Could a new round of protectionist policies, intelligently conceived and applied, change our lives as drivers, consumers, and workers — for the better?

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No Fixed Abode: The Final Frontier

Some people have one mid-life crisis; I’ve had a series of them, rearing their ugly heads in widely disparate manners, off and on over the past 20 years. In fact, I’m now having midlife crises that are repeats of previous crises.

Example: After a fairly successful knee surgery last month, I decided to buy some new BMX bikes and go riding again, the same way I did back in 2001 or thereabouts. Last time, my partners in this ill-advised venture were a bunch of Bolivian pro BMX racers whose constant orbits around my house combined with the glossy presence of a CL55 AMG and an Audi S8 in my driveway to convince my neighbors that I was involved with the cartels. This time, my main homeboy is my seven-year-old son, newly mounted-up on a watermelon-green Sunday Primer 16 skatepark bike.

The last time I got this serious about riding, I bought a Nissan Frontier. This time I’ve thought long and hard about doing something similar. True, I have a very nice Tahoe Z71 as part of the dowry from my recent marriage, but driving anything as profoundly elephantine as a Tahoe depresses the hell out of me. What to do?

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No Fixed Abode: Honda Odyssey and the Era of the Imperial Child

Here’s a free lesson in life that you can use everywhere you go: corporate “morality” is almost always both flexible and highly subject to local gravitational influences. How else to explain the red-white-and-blue-painted previous-generation Camry, festooned with traditionally American imagery, that greeted visitors to the Detroit show on Monday? Maybe Toyota had two of them ready to go after the election, the way that T-shirt manufacturers prepare for both Super Bowl winners. Presumably the other Camry was a triple livery; the first third would have been a rainbow flag that called to mind both #LoveWins and #JeffGordonDivorce, the middle third would have been totally Islammed-out with the star and crescent just like my old Pakistan Express race car, and the trunk area would have paid tribute to the #ShoutYourAbortion movement while also tipping its fedora to written consent in triplicate for all sexual encounters.

Ah, but if wishes were fishes they would have served cruelty-free salmon at the meeting of the Electoral College. So the various pampered-but-oh-so-woke “journalists” attending the NAIAS were forced to taste the salt of their own bitter tears streaming down their cheeks as every manufacturer with even a token presence in the United States waved the red (imperialist), white (racist), and blue (sexist) flag in their press conferences.

Naturally, Honda sent one of the strongest messages; it’s arguably the most American automaker on the God Emperor’s green earth and the bulk of the cars it sells here were designed, engineered, and built in the USA.

The new Odyssey doesn’t buck this trend; to the contrary, it embraces it, right down to the new U.S.-sourced 10-speed transmission. But it’s also at the very vanguard (pardon the pun) of another, equally important, aspect of the zeitgeist. Let’s call it The Era Of The Imperial Child.

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No Fixed Abode: Three Reckless Ops A Day

I remember the day I committed the minor misdemeanor offense of reckless operation as if it was yesterday, although it was actually one day longer ago than the statute of limitations regarding minor misdemeanors in Ohio. I was surrounded by my accomplices — my “gang” if you will — and we were hell-bent on committing some serious traffic offenses.

The situation was this: We were all driving through Cincinnati, Ohio, at approximately 65 miles per hour. This is the speed limit for Route 71 on the north side of Cincinnati. Approximately five miles south of I-275, the speed limit on 71 drops from 65 to 45. There’s no visible logic or reasoning behind this; I-71 is still a five-or-six-lane road at this point. There are certainly times when the road is brought to a standstill by traffic, but the same is true of I-71 between Columbus and Delaware, Ohio, which has a marked limit of 70 mph.

As I passed the speed limit sign together with my gang of approximately 20 visible vehicles — most of which were doing about 70-75 mph but a few of which were going slower or faster than that — not a single driver touched his or her brakes. In the space of a few moments, we had gone from being legal or semi-legal road users to serious violators of the Ohio Revised Code. Had there been a sufficient police presence in the area, every one of us could have been sentenced to 60 days in jail and been subject to impounding of our vehicles.

This is clearly ridiculous, so it’s time to ask the question that is always relevant in situations like this: Cui bono?

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No Fixed Abode: Sorry 'Bout That, Chief

The secret is out: my intrepid and long(ish)-suffering wife, Danger Girl, is the new owner of Matt Farah’s Corvette. This was my idea, for better or worse. She was all set on ordering a new Grand Sport for the 2017 autocross/trackday season, but I thought that it would be a better idea for her to experience all of the new-Vette-owner rituals (nose scraping, rocker panel ripping, mirror scratching, lurid 130mph backwards-facing exits into Mid-Ohio’s “China Beach”) with a used car. So now she has a “learner” Vette, albeit one with 421RWHP, Pfadt coilovers, a half-cage, and fixed Sparcos.

With just 32,200 miles at the time of sale, DG’s Corvette is still well out of warranty thanks to an in-service date from the (Bill) Clinton administration. (I guess I don’t have to put that qualifier in there any more, do I?) As my wife found out last week, however, having a car that’s under warranty isn’t always a blessing. In fact, sometimes it’s an outright curse.

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No Fixed Abode: Winning Through Intimidation and the 'Doc Fee'

A couple of weeks ago, I told the tale of an extremely profitable Soul sale. Some of you criticized me for implying that the “doc fee” was negotiable. I don’t know what kind of mindset you would have to possess in this world to think that a doc fee is not negotiable. Even if you can’t get the actual line item off your deal, you should be able to obtain a similar savings elsewhere. It’s such a scam that lately a few state courts have gotten involved in the discussion. The actual costs of “documenting” a sale don’t come close to what dealerships are trying to charge. It’s pure, raw profit.

Still, I wouldn’t expect my readers to do something I’m personally unwilling to do. So I will tell you the story of how I walked out of a dealership over a $300 doc fee. Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal — but, in this case, the dealership was six hundred miles from my house, and I had no way to get home.

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No Fixed Abode: Five Amazing Things That Are Easier to Invent Than an Autonomous Car

It’s neither on-message for this site nor terribly interesting to my readers, which is why I rarely mention it, but I have been almost feverishly interested in matters of artificial intelligence, machine consciousness, and advanced language parsing for a very long time.

Thirty-five years ago, I tried to write a very simple sentence parser and response generator for the Atari 800 for my school science fair. The effort failed miserably, in large part because AtariBASIC didn’t really have any usable tools for text handling — and because I was nine years old and had the attention span of a fruit fly.

The night before the science fair, I admitted defeat and decided to do something else: I wrote a quick program that would give pre-programmed responses to certain questions.

The next morning, I demonstrated my program to a couple of nuns. I asked them a couple of leading questions to get them to pick the discussion topic I wanted, then I had them type the questions in. The amazingly intelligent Atari responded in full sentences! Not even the utter pathos of my quickly sketched cardboard sign behind it could keep me from getting an A+. What amuses me, in retrospect, was that the nuns weren’t really all that shocked at the idea that an 8-bit computer could parse language and give reasonable answers. Had I demoed this program to anybody who understood technology, they’d have labeled me a genius or a fraud. But to the nuns, passing the Turing test was about as tough as making an artificial volcano. Blame the movies, I guess.

The problem with every “autonomous” car that has appeared so far is simple: they are all equal to my childhood Atari program. Real autonomous operation is a hugely difficult problem. I’d like to illustrate this for you by listing five rather astounding technical feats that will be easier to accomplish than true vehicular autonomy.

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No Fixed Abode: Dealers Gone Wild!

“Character is what you do when no one is watching.” This quote, ascribed to John Wooden, C.S. Lewis, and others, is doubly true when it comes to the oft-reviled profession of automotive sales. Any dealer can be “ethical” when they are facing an informed consumer with money, credit, the ability to hire counsel, and the self-confidence to fight for own interests. I’ve had plenty of trouble-free transactions with dealerships that had well-earned abysmal reputations for ethics. Hell, I’ve even managed to buy some new motorcycles over the years without getting raked over the coals too hard.

You can’t judge a dealer based on how he treats a middle-aged white guy with a spotless credit rating, a laptop full of information, and a thorough knowledge of the laws in his state regarding new-car sales. That would be like the Misfit having a good opinion of the grandmother in the Flannery O’Connor tale. Rather, you judge a dealer by how he behaves when there is nobody of consequence looking. Given a dark-skinned female customer with a decent co-signer and some down payment money but no genuine idea of how the process works, how much advantage will a dealer take?

The answer might shock you, as they say — but it probably won’t.

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No Fixed Abode: Give The Customer What He (Doesn't Know He) Wants

“Well, I bought that car last night.” Craig has this unnerving habit of simply appearing at my cubicle while I’m trying to do something productive, like texting people or reading random articles from the Last Psychiatrist archive on my phone. He’s a soft-spoken fellow, entering late middle age the same way that I am but not showing nearly as much evidence of blunt trauma, well-compensated in his engineering job but modest in appearance and disinclined to spend money.

Regarding my life and temperament, I like to follow the example of Robert Bly in quoting Cesar Vallejo: “Well, / On the day that I was born / God was sick / gravely.” I suspect that on the day that Craig was born, by contrast, God was in perfect health and settling down with the newest issue of Consumer Reports. About a month ago, Craig started seriously thinking about replacing his 150,000-mile Honda CR-V. It’s been a faithful companion for a freeway commute that takes about an hour in each direction, but even the most prosaic of Hondas eventually reaches a point where the cost of maintenance starts to become a factor. Not in money, necessarily, but in time.

Knowing that I dabble a bit in things automotive, Craig had asked what I thought about the new CR-V. This was a subject on which I was glad to speak, because I absolutely despise the “cute-utes” and will take every opportunity to rooster-block the purchase of one.

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No Fixed Abode: The Low Spark Of High Performance Compacts

Imagine a world without war. More specifically, imagine a world without the horsepower war that has dominated the automotive landscape over the past fifteen years.

It’s easy if you try. The Corvette would still have 350 horsepower; mid-engined Ferraris would have about 400. The Mustang? 260 raging ponies. Most pickup trucks would have under three hundred horses, and some would have fewer than two hundred. The V12-powered Mercedes sedans would have just a bit more than half the puissance they currently possess. The Subaru STi would have 300 hp to humiliate the VW GTI’s 200 hp, while the top-spec Nissan Sentra would send 180 hp through a six-speed manual, about which a big deal would be made.

Perhaps you experienced a bit of cognitive dissonance while reading that last sentence. After all, the current Subaru STi has 305 horsepower now, facing the 210 horsepower of the GTI, and the just-announced Sentra Nismo is expected to put out 188 ponies. Compared to their turn-of-the-century ancestors, both of those cars actually have a worse power-to-weight ratio today. And while the new Civic Si is expected to put up a slightly better number than the 2006 Civic Si, it’s going to come from a 1.5-liter turbo engine that will likely be stressed to the gills, not a tuned-down variant of the Type-R’s two-liter.

So, while the wealthy car buyers among us are enjoying an era of unprecedented power in their sports cars, SUVs, and big sedans, the entry-level buyers are being asked to do more with less. Sounds familiar, right?

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No Fixed Abode: Mr. Trump's (Not So) Wild Ride

They say that Donald Trump is Literally Hitler. That he is the reincarnation of Adolf Hitler. That he believes all the things that Hitler believed. That his plan to restrict illegal immigration is literally equivalent to killing six million people. He says he can build a peaceful relationship with Russia instead of having an awesome progressive war over Syria. Guess what? HITLER ALSO BUILT A PEACEFUL RELATIONSHIP WITH RUSSIA. Before attacking Russia. It’s true. Look in an old racist history book and you can see that Hitler made peace with Russia in nineteen-something, right before he sent Messerschmitt Bf109s to attack peaceful villagers in Mexico, or Spain, or whatever.

Alright, so all of that might be a bit exaggerated, although if you’re one of the participation-trophy Millennials who is currently milling about a Starbucks in an attempt to overturn a democratic election, you probably don’t believe in that.

But what if it had been true? What if Donald J. Trump wasn’t just a businessman, hustler, and television personality who managed to elevate himself to the Presidency mostly on his own dime despite being stabbed in the back by everybody from CNN to Paul Ryan, but instead he was literally Hitler?

Well, if you’re a student of pre-war German history like I was as a child, you know that he would immediately insist on a few things: a revival of traditional culture, full employment, and … wait for it … a People’s Car.

What would that look like? What would the American Folks-Wagon be?

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No Fixed Abode: The Millionaire Next Door, Or The Vegas Supercar Rental?

“You’re in Vegas? Me too! Hey, I’m at the Hoover Dam, waiting for them to come get my broken McLaren!” My phone was “blowin’ up,” as they say, with texts from “Brayden,” the infamous owner of the Bitcoin Bimmer. And it was true: I was in Vegas, along with Brother Bark, to drive with EXR in their first-ever endurance event — the day-into-night, three-hour “United Fiber & Data 250.” The race was held at the same purpose-built, 1.4-mile road course that EXR’s parent company, Exotics Racing, uses for their rent-a-supercar experiences. Our practice and qualifying sessions were woven into the day there in such a manner that I also got to watch several hundred normal customers arrive-and-drive the cars of their dreams.

The Exotics Racing experience is very track-centric. They don’t do street rentals at all. They put you in a car with an instructor and you drive in a very controlled, very safe environment. During some of the downtime between practice sessions, Danger Girl and I held an impromptu time-attack challenge — me in a 458 Italia and her in a Huracan. (I won, but not by much: 1.3 seconds.) But if you’d rather drive a McLaren or Ferrari up and down the Vegas strip, there are more than a few companies that will oblige you. In fact, that was how Brayden had come to be in possession of a broken McLaren 570S; he’d rented one, promptly “railed” it out to Hoover Dam, and just-as-promptly popped off a coolant hose while idling in a line of traffic.

During my three days in Vegas, I saw so many people trundling around in rented exotics that I started to wonder: What kind of person drops a grand just to troll around the Strip? I know you probably have an immediate and negative response to that, not in part because you can just imagine my spoiled little pal Brayden hollering at Saran-Wrapped “Pimp and Ho Party” participants outside the Bellagio. But after doing the math, I’ve come up with a very different opinion.

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No Fixed Abode: The 1955 Auto-Buying Experience Is Available To You In 2016, But You Won't Like It

It was called The Automobile Information Disclosure Act of 1958 and it was sponsored by Almer Stillwell Monroney, the Senator from Oklahoma who preferred the colloquial nickname “Mike” and whose other legislative priority in 1958 was to create the FAA.

We owe Mike Monroney a lot. He was from that long-discredited and long-forgotten breed of old privileged men who believed there was such a thing as the public interest and that they had a genuine duty to act in that public interest. As with Rudolf Diesel, history has paid him the supreme compliment of omitting capitalization — it’s common for “monroney” to be used in correspondence or business as a mere noun denoting the window sticker in a new car.

We take the monroney for granted nowadays. There are few of us left alive who can remember the days when a car did not have its price and equipment fully and forthrightly glued to the inside of its rear passenger window. In fact, very few of us take the window sticker at all seriously. Everybody knows that in the modern car market the dealer invoice is the “real” sticker, unless you’re talking about a Ferrari or something where the MSRP is just a starting point for further discussions based on one’s history with the marque, the dealership, and/or Goldman Sachs. But the protection and information offered by that label in the window is real, it is meaningful, and it is absolutely critical to any remotely ethical business transaction between the dealer and the consumer.

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No Fixed Abode: Whatcha Gonna Do When They Come For CO2?

Arthur C. Clarke is perhaps best-known as the fellow who wrote “2001: A Space Odyssey”, but he is notorious among science-and-engineering types for having once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” This statement is, of course, entirely relative. The vast majority of human beings in this or any other era can be easily confused by everything from a torque wrench to the weight difference between a pound of bricks and a pound of feathers.

The news that came out of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory last week, however, is going to blur the science/magic boundary for most of us. A group of scientists there discovered a way to turn water that has been saturated with CO2 into ethanol using nano-spike catalysts. At room temperature. It’s (not quite) as simple as this: You apply a lot of electricity to the water in the presence of this material, and it turns into ethanol.

This is going to cause a lot of problems.

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No Fixed Abode: Putting Out a Contract on That Honda

I’ve always been suspicious of the word “ally.”

As a child, reading John Toland and William Shirer when most of my classmates were still sounding out words one syllable at a time, I didn’t much care for the Allies. Instead, I rather approved of the Axis powers — minus that treacherous Stalin, mind you. Save your disapproval. The rest of America must have secretly felt the same way or else we wouldn’t have surrendered our vehicle-manufacturing capabilities to Germany and Japan. Indeed, I think that President Bush made a mistake talking about the “Axis Of Evil.” First off, that sounds like a really bad-ass metal band. Second, it implies that the countries involved might eventually create reissues of the Messerschmitt Me262 Sturmvogel, which would be enough to sway any man with functioning testicles to their cause.

But “Ally” is also a euphemism for GMAC, the company that sucked up $17 billion worth of taxpayer money so it could offer 0-percent financing on Chinese-made Buick Envision SUVs. And since the nice people at Ally learned precisely nothing from that bailout, the same way your neighbor’s kid Chadwick learned precisely the wrong lesson from his parents’ decision to replace his 2014 Mercedes-Benz SLK 250 with a 2016 Mercedes-Benz SL 550 after Chadwick tripped out on Ecstasy and barrel-rolled said SLK into a kindergarten schoolyard, Ally busies itself offering all sorts of additional financial “products” via direct mail to all sorts of people.

I’m one of those people.

Ally wants to cover my 2014 Accord V6 ( did you know I had one?) with a special service contract. Who’s the bigger fool here: Ally, for offering me a contract, or me, for considering it?

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No Fixed Abode: Where My Girls At? And By Girls, I Mean Qualified Womyn, Of Course

If you follow the auto-journo cool kids on Twitter… get a life! Seriously! Go out and learn to fly an airplane! Take your children camping! Volunteer at your local soup kitchen this November and help the homeless make it through Thanksgiving with dignity!

Anyway, there were a few dramatic Tweetstorms and whatnot lately. The first one is partially recapitulated above. Occasional Motor Trend contributor and brand advocate for Castrol and Meguiar’s, Jessi Lang, decided to dig up some old tweet by The Smoking Tire’s Matt Farah. I suspect she did this because Matt’s star is rising while her own personal profile in the business spiked a long time ago. You have to take your opportunities at self-promotion where you can get them.

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No Fixed Abode: Whoa, Black Betty

Not every hero gets a statue, and not every brilliant accomplishment gets a plaque. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, and many a spectacular occurrence is forgotten the moment after it happens.

This is the story of a sheetmetal worker who built a car to nearly unimaginable standards of precision and perfection … then decided to walk away from it for reasons that only he can understand.

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No Fixed Abode: The Case For Cloth

I should have known better than to get excited. My old friend Brian Makse posted a photo of a four-cylinder 718 Cayman S with what appeared to be a partial cloth seat. This is not something that TTAC readers will know about your humble author, but cloth interiors in Porsches are my thing, man. Long before Singer was charging $400,000 to put plaid door cards in an old 964, I had “cloth interior” on my list of things to find in my next Porsche. It’s a tough ask for any car from Weissach after 1982 or thereabouts, and in fact, of the three 9-somethings I’ve owned, only my 944 had anything besides leather on the seating surfaces.

So you can imagine my excitement when I saw cloth in (what should be) the entry-level Porsche. I was so worked up that I stopped doing what I was doing, which was building a Watkins Glen Grey Grand Sport with Hyper Green stripes online, and promptly pulled up the Porsche website to build a cloth Cayman of my very own. I kind of thought it would be a no-cost option to have a fabric seat, but I secretly hoped it was one of those options where you actually get some money back, like a sunroof delete.

You all know how naive this was on my part, right?

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No Fixed Abode: How Do The Fools Survive?

Sometimes when you hear hoofbeats it really is zebras.

I was in Bowling Green earlier this week, visiting the NCM Motorsports Park and watching Danger Girl grind through a five-day SCCA license school. On the second day of this odyssey, I saw a final-form Saab 9-5 parked up front, all slab-sided purity and mascara-black facial menace. There’s something profoundly depressing for me about those cars; whenever I see them I think of the narrator of Susan Minot’s “Lust” who, in a moment of shellshocked profundity, says, “I could have loved that one.”

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No Fixed Abode: Looking For Value at Lexus

I’ve long since learned not to give advice about car purchases to individuals who are not already rabid car enthusiasts. It wasn’t a lesson that arrived immediately, or without difficulty, but it’s one that I have finally and regretfully internalized. My brother Bark has not yet learned this lesson, so feel free to continue sending him Ask Bark submissions, but my days as a would-be car-shopping guru are over.

Yet there are times that I cannot dodge a particular request, whether for reasons of politeness, expediency, or my own self-interest. When those times arise, I usually recommend a Toyota, unless the questioner has stated that she absolutely does not want a Toyota, in which case I will recommend a Honda. If a Honda is not acceptable, I explain that anything else amounts to a roll of the dice and as long as we’re rollin’ the dice we might as well get a Viper ACR and screech our barbaric yawp down the back straight of Virginia International Raceway the way Harambe would have wanted us to had he not been assassinated by the Illuminati.

So when a co-worker at one of my contracts asked me about her next new car, I quickly evaluated her demographics (50-ish, upper-middle class), current vehicle (previous-gen Sonata) and desires (“As much luxury as I can get”) before responding, however reluctantly, with an endorsement of the Lexus ES. This, of course, led to an examination of the pricing and equipment for the Lexus ES. Despite numerous conversations on the subject, I cannot decide if the front-wheel-drive luxo-Toyota represents a blatant cash grab or singular value for money. There’s only one way to decide issues like these, but since Tina Turner let Thunderdome burn to the ground we’ll have to settle for deciding based on the considered input of the Best & Brightest.

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No Fixed Abode: Generic Fixes Of The Future

We were standing trackside and talking about the new Acura NSX. My brother had just driven it to the overall win at the first-ever SCCA Targa event. It would have been nice if the NSX he’d been driving had also been a Targa; I believe they were called the NSX-T back in the day. No such luck. The new NSX does not (yet) come in Targa form. What can you do. We all have to face our own share of disappointment. Each worm to his taste, as the proverb says — some worms prefer to eat nettles.

My brother was off somewhere doing something so I was talking to a couple of occasional TTAC readers. They admitted that they skip my stuff and focus on the good solid tangible sales data from Tim Cain. I did not love them for this. But I discussed the NSX with them nonetheless, and at one point somebody said something along the lines of, “It’s a great car, but how are you going to fix something that complicated 20 years from now, without factory or dealer support?” And that was the sentence that triggered my Matrix moment, a mind spinning down a rabbit hole into a deja-vu past.

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No Fixed Abode: What The Hell-ement?

“About twice a week, I’ll come out to the parking lot and see that somebody’s left a note asking to buy it,” Peter said, chuckling. “But the only reason I’d sell it would be to get a newer one. And the prices on those are even crazier. So I’ll keep it. Forever. It’s my car for life, no matter what else I buy or own or whatever.”

A devoted ultra-marathoner and trail-runner who thought nothing of running 30 kilometers on Saturday and then doing it again on Sunday, Peter was the photographer assigned to me on a recent project for another media outlet. He was (obviously) hugely fit, extremely disciplined, and very much in love with his car.

But what kind of car could inspire that kind of affection from a guy like Peter, to say nothing of all the parking-lot stalkers who keep trying to buy his car? Is it a Boss 302? A 458 Speciale? A pristine MkIV Toyota Supra Turbo? I’m afraid not. The belle of Peter’s ball is a homely little box of a car that, when it was new, rarely left a showroom without the assistance of a massive trade allowance, a flatbed tow truck, or possibly both.

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No Fixed Abode: The Best Press Event Ever!

If you want to truly understand how the sausage of “automotive journalism” is made, there are two articles that you absolutely must read. The first is fun: it’s by Neal Pollack and it talks about the outrageous excesses of Mercedes PR’s “Pied Piper.” The second is long and occasionally tedious: it’s called “ Taking Readers For A Ride” and it was written for American Journalism Review by a fellow named Frank Greve with material assistance from … yours truly.

Most people know by now that the majority of new-car press introductions are absurdly sybaritic affairs, featuring five-star hotels, unlimited room service, outrageous gifts, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Why does Subaru have to introduce the XV Crosstrek in Iceland? The simple answer is that they didn’t … but they knew that the broke-ass journalists who used the trip as a vacation (and, in at least one case, a hookup) would treasure the trip for the rest of their lives.

This sort of thing distorts autowriting to a degree that is borderline insane. But if you listen to the PR people and their apologists in the media, they will tell you that there is just no other way to do it. Wrong answer. It’s possible to do a press intro on the cheap — and it’s also possible to make that intro the best one of all time.

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  • Redapple2 C2 is the best. C3 next. Then C7 (looking at you jimII).
  • Jeff S Vulpine--True the CAFE rules are for ICE.
  • Gray I grew up in the era of Panther and Fox platforms. If only they developed a good looking two door Conti. The four doors became a cult in their own right. And kept the 351W as a top line option.
  • Vulpine ABSOLUTELY YES!!! Bring back the TRUE compact trucks. The demand for them is far higher than the OEMs want to admit.
  • Brn More likely, with Google having troubles, the money tree isn't as ripe as it once was and cutbacks are needed.I hope the overall industry continues to evolve. When I get the the point I can't easily drive, I would still appreciate the independence that autonomous vehicles can bring.