No Fixed Abode: Triumph of the Grille
Here’s something to depress our older readers: There is an entire generation of drivers that has never known a world without Lexus. Note that I did not say “Lexus and Infiniti.” The majority of American drivers probably have no idea Infiniti exists.
It wasn’t supposed to be that way. I was there at the start, working for a BMW dealer, and I can tell you that many people on the retail side of the business thought that Infiniti would prove to be just as successful as Lexus. Maybe more successful. All of the momentum seemed to be on Nissan’s side: They had the near-legendary Nissan Primera as Infiniti’s entry-level car, beloved of autowriters and cognoscenti everywhere. Toyota had a Camry with frameless windows. Infiniti had the mighty, dream-crushing Q45, which was as fast as a V12 Bimmer and styled from nose to tail in an original, tasteful, fake-wood-free fashion. Toyota had a store-brand copy of the S-Class.
It didn’t turn out that way, of course. We now live in a Lexus world. The brand is so strong that other brands, like Cadillac, obtain the bulk of their sales volume selling knockoff versions of the RX350. I don’t have access to hard numbers, but I would suspect that Lexus dealers are more profitable, per unit sold, than any other franchise south of, say, Porsche.
And where is Infiniti? Nowhere. Lost. Sinking. The reasons for the brand’s failure are too numerous to consider in a single article. But I’m going to discuss what I think might be the most important reason here, because it doesn’t just apply to Nissan’s boutique brand and it continues to affect everyone from Honda to Hyundai.
No Fixed Abode: Ford Windstar and the Social Strivers
Long-time TTAC readers will recall that I had a reputation for selling the un-sellable when I worked as a Ford salesman in the halcyon days of the First Clinton Administration. This was particularly true when it came to cars that were considered showroom poison simply because of their color. I delighted in selling pink Aspires to recovering alcoholics and Tauruses with pink interiors to color-blind customers.
In the spring of 1995, the new-car manager at my dealer decided to order 25 identical Windstars to take advantage of a particularly felicitous upcoming combination of Red Carpet Lease residuals and rates.
No Fixed Abode: What's the Auto-Point of It All?
One of the first things any child learns in the modern technological era is that there are tools for which the true purpose is explicitly stated and tools for which the true purpose is hidden behind some obfuscating official language, legal fiction, or disingenuous disclaimer. Examples of the former: shovels, over-and-under trapshooting shotguns, noise-canceling headphones. Examples of the latter: BitTorrent, “professional” lock-picking kits on Massdrop, the Hitachi Magic Wand.
With the simultaneous democratization of tech and increased frequency of tech-related legislation, more and more things are falling into the category of “used for purposes other than intended, or in a manner other than suggested.” Nobody ever lets the FAA know that they’re going to be flying a Phantom drone over a motocross track, nobody ever deletes their MP3s when they sell their CDs back to Half Price Books, and nobody ever takes the Yoshimura pipe off their GSX-R1000 when they leave Willow Springs and ride back home.
From the moment that the Tesla “Autopilot” feature was introduced, with its copious disclaimers and strident request that the owner keep his hands on the wheel and continue to act just like he was driving the thing himself, the whole world has treated Autopilot like it was Napster. Oh, sure, I’m just going to keep looking ahead with my hands on the wheel, wink-wink, nudge-nudge. The near-universal assumption, one I’ve seen echoed by dozens of Tesla owners, is that Autopilot is, in fact, a functioning autopilot system and all the disclaimers are just there to keep the lawyers happy.
What if that’s not the case at all?
No Fixed Abode: Instrument (Panels) Of Torture
This is the story. Brother Bark and I knew a fellow. At one point, he’d been kind of a big deal in the Columbus, Ohio music scene; he called himself, and the others like him, Franklin County Municipal Rock Stars. At the age of 30, he quit that scene and he quit drinking while he was at it. Got a job in Washington, D.C. as a cubicle drone. Bought himself a new Thunderbird. Paid it off in four years. Then he lost his job in the post-September-11th fallout. Ran out of money in a hurry. Moved into a tiny apartment with his girlfriend. Couldn’t afford to leave the house much. He was starting to recognize the signs of incipient agoraphobia in the way he trembled when it was time to go outside and get the mail.
He still had the ‘Bird. It was in good shape. Just six years old. His girlfriend’s car broke down. She started driving his car to work; he wasn’t using it anyway. Some days he didn’t even leave his bedroom. One day the phone at home rang. It was his girlfriend. The ‘Bird was dead. She’d been driving it down the freeway and BANG smoke GRIND silence rolling to a stop.
“I’m sorry, baby,” she said. “I should have changed the oil when it told me to.”
“The Thunderbird told you to change the oil?” our friend asked. He didn’t know it could do that.
“Yes, three weeks ago it started showing the red light that means change the oil.” It was then, according to our friend, that he hung up the phone and started sobbing. He sold The Bird for scrap. The girlfriend left him. He took a Greyhound back to Ohio and moved into a rural basement outside Kenyon College, living on old friends’ charity and doing whatever work he could accomplish without walking outside. The next time he left the house for any substantial length of time, it was to volunteer for the campaign of Barack Obama, five long years later.
“How,” he asked Bark plaintively, “could she have thought that the light meant change the oil?”
No Fixed Abode: The Day That Everybody Bought Extra Cheese
I was deep underwater this morning in the line at Jimmy John’s Subs, a pair of ragged claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas. Thinking about my son. Last night was his first time on a full-sized racetrack in his 50cc TopKart. I was terrified, but he was masterful, entering turns fearlessly at full throttle and nonchalantly catching slides on the way out. His feedback afterwards was detailed, exact; he remembered corner numbers and physical reference points. The best student I’ve ever had, by far, and to the manner born. No reason to not be ecstatic, although for me the happiest moment was when I told him to call it quits and he deliberately slid to a forty-five-degree-angled halt dime-square on the start/finish line, no longer in danger from light poles and concrete walls.
That was good, but there was this, too: I’d just seen a photo of a woman with whom I’d once had something. Smiling, holding a bouquet of flowers at her very recent wedding. Not sure what to think about that. Married to another handsome devil. Always the case. I’m always the most hideous, deformed creature any of my girlfriends ever dates. The minute I release them from my spell, they settle down with fresh-faced men fifteen years my junior, sensitive fellows with properly progressive leanings, tirelessly and cheerfully reaping from the furrows I’ve drukenly and dispiritedly sown. What this woman and I had wasn’t much. A few nights. A brief, furtive coupling at a racetrack before we both went out and drove press cars. Still. I could have loved her.
I mention all of this so you understand why I did not protest. The woman at the register said, “Do you want cheese?” I replied in the affirmative. She rang up “ADD Cheese $0.75.” Normally, I’d have protested this. The “Slim 5” sandwich comes with cheese. I shouldn’t have to pay for it. But I was lost in thought. I said nothing, and I paid, and I moved on.
No Fixed Abode: Three's Up, Bolt's Down
The meme is called I Hope Senpai Will Notice Me, and it commonly refers to a situation in which someone hopes desperately to catch the attention (no matter how temporary that attention might be) of a romantic interest and/or social superior.
When it happens in the auto industry, it usually comes in the form of an auto industry alpha male temporarily deigning to notice one of our many beta/omega/is-there-something-worse-than-omega-cause-if-so-that-word-applies automotive journalists.
I inadvertently participated in a “Senpai, Notice Me!” moment of my own when I agreed to face Bob Lutz in the CTS-V Challenge. Robert Farago told me not to attend. He’d correctly diagnosed the event as one in which auto journos would crawl on their hands and knees to lick the spittle dripping from Bob Lutz’s super-alpha chin; in particular, I remember the odd shudder of ecstatic, erotic joy that visibly wiggled through Wes Siler’s body when Bob turned to him and offhandedly said, “Hi, Wes.”
No Fixed Abode: Filling Every Hole In That SLT (Lineup)
Stop the presses! There’s a new GMC Yukon in town!
Until this morning, humanity was only familiar with three trim levels of GMC’s Suburban clone. There was the SLE, which does not have push-button start and is therefore beneath contempt. There is the SLT, which is the Yukon your neighbors got when they couldn’t swing the lease payments on the Denali. Finally, there is the Denali, with which you are no doubt familiar from the line of “cars” waiting to pick up kids at your local private school. With the exception of devoted George Strait fans, everybody who imagines a Yukon in their head imagines a Denali.
I’m not aware of anybody ever questioning the density of the Yukon lineup, but it’s obviously been done quite a bit because now there’s an SLT Premium. It slots between the SLT and the Denali on price. Unless they’re holding something back in the GMC press release of which we aren’t aware, the SLT Premium package is strictly an appearance package, featuring a new shinier grille, “exclusive” 22-inch wheels, and a few extra chrome trim pieces thrown in to sweeten the deal.
Do you have the next five or so minutes free? Would you like to talk for a moment about what this all means — this new Premium trim level and the associated discontents which led to its production? If so, you’re in luck, my friend, because that is precisely the thing about which I would like to talk this fine morning.
No Fixed Abode: If You Had A Choice Of Colors, Which One Would You Choose, My Brother
No, that’s not my lime-green Audi S5 in the photo above. Nor is it that car’s Malaysian rip-off. It’s a totally new thing, a “Pfaff Performance Series” available for the low, low price of $68,000 CAD, which is $54,000 USD. That’s almost exactly what I paid for my S5 eight years ago, so it’s not necessarily a bad deal.
Except this car sucks in every way you can make an S5 suck. Crappy supercharged V6 in place of a direct-injection V8? Check. Automatic (DSG) transmission? You betcha. Two-tone seats because they didn’t have the courage to go full Havana Brown leather like I did? Uh-huh. I’m not even sure it has the upgraded stereo. Frankly, you’d be better off finding my original car and paying whatever the current owner wants for it.
It could be worse, however; it could be Signal Green.
No Fixed Abode: The Uber/Taxi Diaries, Predatorial Fish Edition
For a guy who never goes on press trips, I’ve sure been in a lot of airports lately.
Last weekend, I was in Southern California, following up on a few weekdays spent in the Miami area. This weekend, I was in Las Vegas to hang out with my brother, do some electric karting, and one other thing that slips my mind right now but I’m sure I’ll remember later.
From Friday night to Sunday evening, I traveled by a diverse variety of conveyances, including but not restricted to: an Indian Chieftain, a Prius, a Prius V, two Altimas, a Jetta, and a white Lincoln Town Car. I met a former political prisoner who has witnessed three suicides, accidentally taunted the police, hit a wooden box on the freeway, and learned about predatorial fish.
No Fixed Abode: A Tale of Three Ubers
If you weren’t at Desert Generator, you missed out. By the time I pulled my rented Indian Roadmaster up to Pappy and Harriet’s out in Pioneertown, a couple hundred vans had already shown up — so many that a significant percentage of the Pioneertown parking ended up being used as an overflow area. The vanners came from as far away as Calgary to show off their meticulously restored and upgraded rides. There were murals, carpeted interiors, lava lamps, and outrageous candy-color paint schemes as far as the eye could see.
There were also a remarkable number of very fine-looking women, contrary to some predictions on the part of the B&B. Don’t believe me? You can see for yourself. Bonus points to anybody who can find me in there, as well. It was a good time, made even better for me by my decision to duck out of some of the louder parts of the concert to grab a filet at the Ruth’s Chris in Palm Desert.
Since this is The Truth About Cars, I won’t bore you with a panegyric to the mighty force of motorcycling nature known as the Indian Roadmaster. Instead, I’ll talk about the three Uber trips I took this weekend. Together, they paint an interesting picture of the “gig economy” and the future of mobility.
No Fixed Abode: Who Can Afford a New Car, Anyway?
It’s just the title of a recent Charlie Hunter album, but it says a lot about life in post-2008 America: Not Getting Behind Is The New Getting Ahead.
Here’s one example: According to Business Insider, the average middle-class family can no longer afford the average new car. Is that true? And if it is true, how and why did that happen, and what can be done to fix this sad state of affairs?
No Fixed Abode: Farewell to the Transparent Dream
Just short of ten years ago, I clambered out of a claustrophobia-inducing Lufthansa coach seat in Frankfurt, grabbed my luggage, and headed for the parking garage. I had paid for my own flight — which did not surprise me in the slightest, because I was a cycling journalist at the time, not an automotive one. After a brief disagreement with my wife concerning the likely German phrase for “parking garage,” we found the right building, then the right floor, and finally the right spot. Occupying the spot was a Volkswagen Phaeton not entirely unlike the two that I’d left in my driveway at home. It was a short-wheelbase model with a VR6 and a specification too modest to ever cross the Atlantic, but the relative familiarity of the car and the controls made it slightly easier for me to get used to driving in Germany.
As we headed east and the evening fell in the windshield ahead, the perfect order and strident prosperity of what I’d grown up calling “West Germany” gradually faded, replaced by open fields, small towns, and abandoned concrete cube housing sprouting a decade’s worth of weeds. We were on our way to Dresden — to the ruined cathedral, to the cobblestones, to what Sandra, my bright-red-haired guide, called “the Saxon temperament.” We were headed to Die Gläserne Manufaktur. The Transparent Factory.
No Fixed Abode: Grandma GT-R
Well, I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so, didn’t I? Eight years ago, when the R35 GT-R arrived on our shores, it was widely claimed and believed that Nissan would sell 5,000 GT-Rs a year in this country and that the GT-R would cast an effective halo on the company’s relatively unexceptional product line. As to the first prediction: they didn’t close. You would need to combine four of the GT-R’s best-selling years to break the five-thou mark.
No Fixed Abode: Time For Volkswagen To Say Goodbye
The way my life has been going lately, I’m seriously considering selecting a random TTAC reader to be the executor of my modest estate and then taking a shot at BASE-jumping off the Petronas Towers. If that reader happens to be you, then I need you to do at least this one thing. Have Wal-Mart or whomever the lowest bidder happens to be engrave the following on my headstone: “He saw passive aggression and, wherever possible, met it with actual aggression.”
I’m old enough to remember when women were passive-aggressive and men were just plain mean, instead of the other way ’round. I liked it better. The other night I was at dinner and my date asked for coffee and the swishy waiter pouted, “We can do it, if you want to wait fifteen minutes.” I’d rather he said, “Go to hell. We don’t serve coffee here.” I could respect that.
Even in 2016, however, it’s rare for an entire company to be passive-aggressive. But that’s exactly what Volkswagen is doing: threatening to abandon the mass market in the United States, presumably because its current exposure to lawsuits and government penalties is too high and its showroom traffic isn’t exactly at Beetles-in-the-Summer-Of-Love levels. I don’t know what it thinks such a move would accomplish, but I do know what the proper response is to a girlfriend, or colleague, who tries that approach: You hold the door open for them and let it hit them in the ass on the way out.
No Fixed Abode: The Chiron-Sanders Effect
How about that new Bugatti Chiron? It looks pretty good to me. Better than the last one, anyway.
I always got the impression that its predecessor, the Veyron, wasn’t styled so much as it was excreted. There was just something unpleasant about it; I think the term used in modern architecture is “Brutalist,” and it describes objects that are designed to force themselves on the viewer without gentleness or grace. It applies well to the the Veyron, which was a technical achievement first, a statement of insane Gilded Age wealth second, and a car either third — or perhaps not at all.
Next to the sleek, purposeful-looking Chiron, the Veyron is a squat lump of offensive conspicuous consumption. Yet it had, and continues to have, an undeniable and magnetic attraction. One of our very occasional contributors at TTAC is a fellow who has owned everything from a Lagonda to a 458 to a Ford GT, and all at the same time to boot. For something like three years, however, his Facebook profile photo was of him behind the wheel of a Veyron. It is an object to which even the enormously wealthy aspire. Nothing says “my other car is a Gulfstream” quite like the Beetle-esque Bugatti.
No Fixed Abode: The First Settlers
Across the vast and majestic gulf of time and space, the jimmies rustled not-so-softly when I published last week’s column on the reasons people choose crossovers. I was accused of persecuting everybody from innocent children to Fox Wolfie Galen. The author of the guest editorial to which my column was a reply claimed that he would leave TTAC forever unless I renounced my views on traditional masculinity, essentially attempting to no-platform me right off a site that I personally dragged from the abyss just two and a half years ago (with all of your help, of course). But seriously — I edited multiple news items for this site from a hospital bed a couple of hours after they cut out my spleen and this guy thinks I’m going to quit just to spare his delicate feelings.
Not that there wasn’t some intelligent, reasonable, principled opposition among the B&B to what I had to say, of course. Some of it resonated with me long after I put my laptop down for the day and picked up my bottle of Ketel One for the evening. I started to think about why people settle: for jobs, for spouses, for vacations — but most of all, why they settle for certain cars. Why have so many of us made the pansy-assed decision to buy something like a crossover? And why do so many of us feel the need to defend that decision to the Internet death?
A few hours later, as I unsteadily unbuttoned the blouse of a woman who was a toddler back when I started driving my father’s 733i, I asked myself: What if I took that easy contempt that I feel for crossover-driving single men and pointed that high-powered perception on myself, so to speak? When did I settle, and why did I do it?
No Fixed Abode: High-Low, High-Low, It's Off To Work You Go
Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of editing Daniel Ho’s theories on crossovers as reflections of the zeitgeist. In his thoughtfully-written piece, Daniel argues that crossovers are chimeras, reflecting a social trend towards generalized products that combine social signaling attributes from multiple socio-economic categories. The crossover, therefore, is the “blazer and jeans” look, offering broader but shallower capabilities than the specialized vehicles that preceded it.
It is my hope that Daniel, and the rest of the B&B, will take it as a signal mark of my esteem and admiration for the both the substance of Daniel’s original argument and his stylish manner of expressing it when I say that he is absolutely, completely, thoroughly wrong.
No Fixed Abode: Planes, Trains, Ubers, Taxis, And Supercars
I’ll start with this: Hannah, wherever you are, I do not apologize for stealing your car. You were a real b— … well, white men like myself aren’t allowed to use the “b-word” nowadays, it’s considered more harmful to womyn than all 359 of those sexual offences that happened in Cologne that we’ve all agreed to pretend didn’t really happen. Why don’t we just say that you’re a very mean person. I don’t apologize for that, or for stealing your car.
Now, where were we, to use three words in a row that start with “w” and end with “e”? Well, it’s like this:
No Fixed Abode: Barack Obama, Scion Killer
One coupe flies, two coupes die.
By the time that Akio Toyoda was standing on that Detroit stage crowing about the triumph of the LC500, the nails were already being hammered into Scion’s coffin. The Scion tC, perhaps the best combination of practicality, style, and durability available for under twenty-five grand in the United States, will be taken out back and unceremoniously shot. The FR-S … your guess is as good as mine, but I’d be surprised if Toyota brought it over as the Celica, no matter how personally gratified I would be by such a move.
The story of Toyota’s American sub-marques could not be more different. Lexus has gone from strength to strength, effortlessly assuming a position as the thinking man’s luxury car with the LS460 while also flooding the market with Camry-platform high-profit product. Scion, on the other hand, has struggled from its first day with customer perception, dealer-satisfaction issues, and schizophrenic product planning.
Yet it’s easy to show that Lexus has been just as poorly managed as Scion; take a look at the Lexus lineup over the past 27 years and tell me that you can’t spot quite a few duffers and misfires. So why is the Official Toyota Brand of McMansion Owners soaring while the Official Toyota Brand of Dubstep Aficionados crashes? The answer, naturally, is: Barack Obama.
No Fixed Abode: A Very Special Feature
Supposedly, there’s a Powerball ticket somewhere in this house. It’s Wednesday night as I write this, a few hours before the drawing. By the time you read this, you will know that I did not win the Powerball, and neither did you. I feel mathematically justified in believing that not a single TTAC reader is in any danger of actually winning the Powerball. Statistically speaking, about sixty of our readers this month are probably going to die behind the wheel at some point in their lives, but none of them are going to win the Powerball. Depressing, huh? Not that any of us are prepared for the life-destroying effect of being suddenly and publicly minted as a billionaire. Just imagine all of your friends disappearing and being replaced by a million times as many people who all despise you to the core of their souls.
It’s a shame that I’m not going to win the Powerball, because I’d probably spend a million dollars or so on buying, and restoring, a fleet of Volkswagen Phaetons. Instead of being known as “the idiot who had two new Phaetons,” I would be known as “the idiot who has twenty Phaetons in tip-top shape.” I’d be most interested in W12-powered examples with the four-seater package, but I’d have at least one of every major configuration. I’d lend them out, the way Matt Farah lent me his Million Mile Lexus this past January. I’d drive them myself. And I would once again be able to enjoy that singular feature of the VW Phaeton, the one thing that it did better than any other car in the world, even ones that cost much more.
No Fixed Abode: The Dealership's Greatest Hits
Last week, I told you the tale of my friend Rodney’s grandmother who got taken to the cleaners recently by a Cleveland-area Buick dealer. That story’s not quite finished — apparently there have been a few conversations and trips back and forth to dealer, and at one point the “lost paperwork” excuse came into play — so I’ll update all of you once everything shudders to a final halt.
As can be expected from the always-contrarian B&B, not all of you were on the side of the elderly lady in the case. One particularly interesting comment went something like this: “It’s ironic that Jack and Rodney are complaining about the dealer making money off Grandma while at the same time smirking to themselves knowing how often they did that back in the day.”
Well, I cannot say that I ever charged anyone over sticker price for any new car, ever. Not even during the week that the first Ford Expeditions started arriving at dealerships and customers were doing everything but using lethal force to get their hands on one.
That doesn’t mean that I didn’t see some people get “grossed” in the most hardcore method imaginable. So, without further ado, here are a few tales of outrageous dealer-profit fortune, including one in which your humble author played the villain.
No Fixed Abode: I Want To Believe
Three years ago, around this time, I begged the nice people at Ford to build a proper Lincoln. This was shortly after I begged Cadillac to put a V-8 in the ATS. If you put the two articles together, you might get the sense that I have the completely antediluvian mindset that an American luxury car needs a V-8 and rear-wheel drive and main-battle-tank proportions to be completely legitimate. And you would be correct, because that is how I feel and, last time I checked, the nice people at Lexus and BMW and Mercedes-Benz felt the same way because most of the cars that they put on the cover of the Robb Report and the like seem to at least meet those basic criteria.
Well, the spy photos of the new Lincoln Continental are making the rounds. I can see that they have deliberately failed to honor my requests, the same way Cadillac stuck two fingers in my eye by afflicting the ATS-V with the asthmatic blown six when the same-platform Camaro SS has the mighty LT1 from the sublime Stingray. This is a retro Continental alright, but the retro-rockets are only firing back to 1988 instead of 1963.
You remember that 1988 Continental?
No Fixed Abode: Baxi To The Future
Arunabh Madhur gave up a 15-year career in brand, media and digital content marketing to set up M-Taxi, the second company that has launched bike taxis in Gurgaon. “You’re our first lady customer and I will take you for this ride myself,” says Madhur, a biker himself and an enthusiastic member of a Gurgaon super bike club.
What’s faster, cheaper, and more panic-attack-inducing than a taxi, an Uber ride, or even a rickshaw? The answer is clearly a motorcycle taxi. It’s now a thing. And there are now multiple startups competing for your motorcycle-taxi business in a place where, more now than ever, the future is being built.
No Fixed Abode: Learning From Willie G.
The appeal of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle was once as much of a mystery to me as was the appeal of country music. As a teenager, I’d walk five miles in each direction just to sit briefly on a yellow RZ350 before the salesman shooed me out of the showroom. I was captivated by the names and the numbers of Japanese sportbikes: Ninja. GSX-R750. Interceptor. FZR1000. I bought my first sportbike (a 600 Ninja) in 1993 and what probably will not be my last sportbike (a VFR800 in the anniversary colors, which I insist on calling an “Interceptor” in conversation) in 2015.
I always had contempt for the Motor Company and its products. Next to these warp-speed machines, with their aerodynamic fairings and outrageous power and lamentable graphics, the V-Twins from Milwaukee seemed old. Stodgy. Slow. Demographically undesirable, the choice of white trash with factory jobs and Boomers with transparent orange bottles full of blue pills. The company itself was on welfare; it survived thanks to a tariff. Pathetic. It never occurred to me that I’d ever do so much as swing a leg over one.
Time, of course, has a way of reducing the most fervent youthful convictions to dimly remembered aversion, and then to nothing at all.
No Fixed Abode: Singer Song of Sixpence
A few years ago, I wrote an opinion piece about Porsche [s]vandal[/s] tuner RWB and the ethical aspects of damaging historically valuable air-cooled 911s. Some of you agreed, some of you disagreed, some of you took it very personally.
This past week the article gained some traction again via a wave of FB shares, which happens often enough that the RWB article is in the all-time top 25 most popular TTAC posts. This time, however, a few of the B&B had a new question to ask: What do you think about the “Porsche 911 Re-Imagined By Singer”?
Good question. As you’d suspect, I have an opinion on the subject. But the most fascinating thing about the Singer cars isn’t what they say about the company or its approach to rebuilding air-cooled Porsches; it’s what the Singer phenomenon says about Porsche itself.
No Fixed Abode: Steady Going Nowhere
This is Part Two; Part One is found here —JB
The Best & Brightest didn’t contest my point too strongly earlier this week when I suggested that the American family vehicle of choice has long possessed familiar dimensions despite sporting a diverse variety of exterior styles, from “tri-five” to high-hip CUV. Some of you thought it was a point too trite to make — what’s next, some assertion on my point that family cars always have four wheels? — but I think most Americans believe there’s a genuine difference between a Ford Fairmont wagon and a Ford Edge CUV.
If, on the other hand, there is not a genuine difference, it raises the question: What external force constrains it thus? What’s so special about those “A-body” dimensions? What makes us return again and again to the scene of crime, across generations, both human and mechanical?
Or at least that is the question I thought I should be asking, prior to truly thinking about it.
No Fixed Abode: Give Us Something Familiar, Something Similar
Let’s make up a phrase, shall we? Come on, it will be fun. We are going to associate a celebrity name with a known phenomenon in human society. Think of “Streisand effect”. That sort of thing. What we’re looking for is a celebrity who was critically popular when he or she was new, fell into disrepute for a while, then experienced a renaissance of renown. Maybe John Travolta would be an example of this. Or Paul McCartney. Run-DMC. Who knows.
But make it up fast, so I can put it in this next sentence: “The 1977 GM B-body is experiencing a XXXXXX Effect lately.” It’s true. That platform was basically the best-selling full-size vehicle for every one of the 25-ish years it was available for sale. But only now, as the Panther falls into history and we start judging it on the merits rather than the singular merit of remaining on sale in showrooms, do we see how well-conceived that “downsized” car was. There’s a rising tide of B-body nostalgia, restoration interest, and classic-car cred.
And it’s interesting just how often a paean to the B-body will be followed by a coda expressing disdain for the A-body (later, when a front-wheel drive A-body arrived, reclassified as G-body) midsize sibling. Due mention will then be made of things like fixed rear windows on the sedans, the ungainly Aerobacks and the unnecessarily Baroque style of the coupes. If the writer really wants to hammer his point home, he’ll simply ask you, the reader, to compare the proportions of the two platforms. The B is sleek and elegant, whether in Caprice glassback coupe or faux-wood Pontiac Safari battlewagon form. The A/G, on the other hand, is ungainly and upright.
No man who could have driven a B of any badge should have settled for an A. But settle they did, and in numbers that increased as the late ’70s turned into the early ’80s. In fact, the shift from “B” to “A” wasn’t just massive; it was permanent and relevant even today. Hold on: I’ll show you.
No Fixed Abode: The Last Days Of Bronco
In 1996, Ford sold about 28,000 Broncos. This was the same year the Explorer finally cracked 400,000 units, the vast majority of them XLT trim or above, and each one carrying a healthy markup over the Rangers from which they were unashamedly derived.
The Ford dealership where Rodney and I worked sixty-five hours a week to earn thirty grand a year stocked at least four Medium Willow Green Explorers with the XLT 945A Popular Equipment Package (PEP 945A) at all times and sometimes even a Medium Willow Green Explorer XLT with the lowbrow, cloth-seat PEP 941A, but we did not, I repeat, we did not stock the Bronco. In fact, during my year at the dealership, I only saw two brand-new Broncos come on the lot.
There was a reason for that.
No Fixed Abode: Return Of The Max
“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” It’s an old idea, but one that has increasing relevance in an era where automation is likely to permanently tilt the balance between capital and labor well off the scale. When all the jobs are done by robots, and the robots are owned by a small group of people, and there’s no way to earn enough money through labor to buy robot capital of your own, then won’t we have entered a stasis of sorts in society? And won’t the bolder thinkers among us then propose that the spoils of the robot labor be divided equally? And won’t they have a bit of a point?
There’s also the idea that if you have something that you don’t need, and someone else needs something that they don’t have, and the “something” in question is the same thing, that the reasonable thing to do is to hand that thing that you don’t need over to the someone who needs it. This was the argument I used in 1987 when my brother, known to all and sundry as “Bark M”, found himself in possession of a set of new Z-Mags thanks to our parents liking him best. He didn’t need another set of wheels, but I’d just broken my back wheel riding off a loading dock for no reason at all, so I requisitioned his Z-Mags for my own use. This was made easier by the fact that I was fifteen years old and he was nine. That’s another lesson: equitable redistribution usually requires unreasonable force.
So what does this have to do with the Nissan Maxima, recently summarized in these electronic pages?
No Fixed Abode: Rage Against The Zipcar
In the end, they caught him, sitting on his bike, near a Billy Joel concert that he was probably listening to ironically, identifiable by his ridiculous handlebar mustache. And now the (grand) jury is in on Ian Hespelt: three felony charges and associated misdemeanors. So what did he do? Only this: he rode the wrong way in traffic with a group of cyclists, falsified an impact with a Zipcar being driven legally by a woman of indeterminate age but definitely diminutive size, attempted to hold her against her will with the assistance of other cyclists, then assaulted her with a U-lock as she drove away.
As a cyclist who has been struck five times by vehicles, once hard enough to snap my neck and leg and require the replacement of every red blood cell in my body, I have long struggled to understand the behavior of “Critical Mass” activists, even as I have nodded in sympathy at their frustration with “cagers” who often feel empowered to menace or attack cyclists simply for existing in their vicinity. I consider the car/bike dynamic in American society to be a massive indictment of human nature; given the advantage of safety and security over the two-wheelers around them, the average driver reacts by turning into a cross between the Emperor Commodus as portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix and Judge Dredd.
Oh well. Let’s watch the video, and then I’ll tell you the reason that my favorite blogger would give you for this mook’s behavior.
No Fixed Abode: Denali Ain't Just A Mountain In Alaska
As those of you with access to the Internet will know, President Obama recently discovered the executive superpower to rename mountains. As a consequence, Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America and the tallest mountain in the world when the measurement is taken from the surrounding ground, is now known by the name given to it by the Athabascans: Denali.
In a prepared statement, Mr. Obama said, “With this action, I am fulfilling two of my most cherished dreams. First, I’m living the progressive dream of presiding over the surrender of a national monument to a native group. Secondly, I’m honoring my childhood memories of Mount Kenya, which rose in splendid African majesty over the place of my birth and early years.”
Just kidding, of course. Mr. Obama is as American as Dave Matthews or Steve Nash and to suggest otherwise is to lend strength to the right-wing racist slander of people like Linda Starr and Philip Berg. But enough of that twaddle. If you’re like me, your initial reaction to the news was simple: What does this mean for General Motors?
No Fixed Abode: You Don't Want A Jeep Pickup, You Pansy!
Last week, rookie TTACer Aaron Cole called the RAM Rebel a Jeep pickup. I don’t think it would be impossible to make the case that the Rebel is a successor of sorts to the J10 and J20 full-sizers like the one that Jalopnik is rebuilding right now. Those pickups were discontinued after Chrysler acquired AMC because there just wasn’t enough money in the hopper to update them and do a new Dodge Ram truck. Shame, really, because the “FSJ” did have some fans and there are still people willing to pay sixty grand for a ’91 Grand Wagoneer.
Chances are, however, than when you think of a “Jeep pickup” you’re not thinking about a full-sizer at all. Rather, you’re envisioning what’s known as a “CJ-8”. It’s perfectly possible to buy a modern CJ-8. It’s also perfectly impossible that Jeep will ever be willing to sell you one. The reason? Why, it’s basically the same reason that the Camry V6 is not the most popular cop car in existence.
No Fixed Abode: Whatcha Gonna Do When They Don't Come For You?
Might as well admit it: I have an unhealthy fascination with the service known as car2go. It’s just so… improbable. I’m pretty sure it began as a way to dump some Smart “ForTwo” inventory into service so the Daimler-Benz lines could keep operating at something like capacity. Since its inception, the service has been in near-constant flux: adding and removing services, changing the fees in predictable and unpredictable ways, suffering service outages, and generally perplexing its customer base, of which I am a devoted and unusually enthusiastic member.
car2go‘s newest change, communicated to me via email yesterday, concerns a significant reduction in their service area. After confirming that my usual lunch runs remain possible, I thought no more about it.
For a while, anyway.
No Fixed Abode: Does It Really Take Privilege to Own a Cheap Car?
If so, how much? In February, Baruth asserted, “ You Gotta be Rich to Own a Cheap Car” — which is a contradiction of my entire experience as a youthful vehicle owner. But the meat of the article adjusts “rich” to a definition of “privilege.” Furthermore, he breaks the idea into eight talking points. Adding that its not money that directly enables the ownership of a cheap car, a more flexible financial and employment situation combined with some acquired skills and knowledge makes ownership an easier task.
It was a thought-provoking piece and elicited 4 times the comments than the NY to LA Cross Country Record post (but the April 1st post generated almost 10 times the Facebook shares).
No Fixed Abode: Walljobbed.
I grew up in the back of two-door family cars ranging from a ’67 Camaro to an ’83 Civic 1500 “S”. It never seemed like a hardship to me. Nor does it seem like a hardship to have my six-year-old son in the back of my Accord Coupe. He knows how to let himself in and out of the back seat. It’s no different from having a four-door sedan and letting him out of the back door. Ninety-nine percent of the time I don’t even think about it.
The other one percent of the time is when I clean the interior of the car. It takes the strength of Hercules and the flexibility of a Cirque du Soleil headliner to get the explosion of fast food, Legos, school paperwork, and miscellaneous unidentifiable items out of the cave behind the front seats. And then I have to condition the leather, you see, which would work better if my arms were between six and eighteen inches longer. So having done all that this past Sunday, I figured I’d do my other least favorite job: brake dust removal. I was already in a bit of a bad mood, crouching next to my Griot’s Garage bucket and shaking out my favorite horse-hair wheel brush, when I saw it.
Oh, hell no.
No Fixed Abode: Return Of The King
So here we are, celebrating forty years of the “Dreier”, or 3-Series, depending on how Euro-wannabe you wannabe. Since I don’t wannabe, I’m going to call it “39 Years Of The 3 Series”. After all, we didn’t get the 320i in the United States until the 1977 model year. When it did arrive, it was a thermal-reacted boondoggle with a tendency to rust out from under the feet of the unlucky first owners.
Although it looked like a million bucks, particularly in “S” trim, and it was one of the dream cars of my pre-teen years, I cannot allow any of you Millennial readers out there to come to the mistaken belief that the E21, as adapted for the American market, was anything other than a shitbox with the lifespan of a fruit fly. It was also easy meat for a Rabbit GTI in any venue from the stoplight drag to the road course. It was, however, expensive, costing about as much as a base Cadillac Coupe de Ville, so at least it had that going for it. The most damning thing I can tell you about the 320i is this: I worked for David Hobbs BMW for much of 1988, and although the newest 320i was just five years old at that point, I never saw one come in for service, and we never took one in on trade.
The “E30” 318i that appeared for the 1983 model year was a major improvement over its predecessor in everything from climate control to rust resistance, but it was “powered” by the same 103-horsepower, 1.8-liter, eight-valve four-cylinder that made the badge on the back of the 1980-1983 320i a comforting lie. I put “powered” in quotes because the E30 318i struggled to break the 18-second mark through the quarter-mile in an era where the Mustang and Camaro were in the low fifteens and even a 1981 Dodge Omni 024 “Charger 2.2” could rip the mark in 17.2 seconds. That’s right: if you were in a brand-new BMW and a three-year-old Dodge Omni pulled up next to you at the light, the only thing that could save you from an ass-kicking would be a swift activation of the turn signal.
But then, one day about halfway through the first year of the 318i’s lukewarm tenure in North America, things changed.
No Fixed Abode: A Vestigial Tale
I woke up yesterday to see that my friend W. Christian “Mental” Ward had taken advantage of me while I was drunk.
My first thought was to make a porn movie in which I played myself, kind of like that nice young lady who recently graduated from Columbia did. (They call her “Mattress Girl”, by the way.) But then I realized that Mental’s violations had been limited to using the column title “No Fixed Abode” for his own opinions. So I calmed down. But then I wondered: what if I just let people use the title for columns of which I particularly approved, either drunk or sober? Eventually I wouldn’t even need to approve them myself. I could use an algorithm, or a Millennial. Perhaps, after fifty or seventy-five years of this, the phrase “no fixed abode” would become brandless, like “kleenex” or “band-aid.”
I can imagine some kid in the year 2210 waxing nostalgic about his steam-powered Kamakiri biosphere-mobile (the first person to get the reference wins the Internet) and saying to his friends, “Man, I’m going to hook up the ‘trodes and bang out a nofixedabode about the time I saw my Daddy mowing the lawn and I was like, ‘Come on Daddy, get in, let’s go!'” At that point, the original reason for the column title, to say nothing of its decidedly nonfamous originator, would be long lost to history.
Which brings us, of course, to the Prius.
No Fixed Abode: Fruit Flies Of The Marketplace
I don’t know what you’re doing with your weekend, but I’m spending mine driving a Prius from the Midwest to the East Coast. Next week I’ll tell you all about my experience with the car, but I’ll say this: it hasn’t been what I expected. Not that my opinion on the subject matters to Toyota; I’m not a customer for a Prius or a hybrid of any type and I am unlikely to become one until the last car that can beat a Prius around a racetrack enters the loving jaws of the Crusher.
Existing hybrid owners, on the other hand, are near and dear to Toyota’s heart. Unfortunately, that affection is being returned in smaller and smaller doses.
No Fixed Abode: They Paved Manuals, and Put Up a Four-Door Coupe
I come to bury Derek Kreindler, not to praise him.
I come to praise Derek, not to bury him.
I come to agree with Derek, and to disagree with him. And to agree with him again. Wait a minute, it will make sense.
No Fixed Abode: Real Stories of the Lazy-ass Highway Patrol.
“When seconds count, the police are just minutes away.” How many times have you heard that phrase used by gun-rights advocates? It’s a catchy but glib way to characterize the role of police in American society. The courts have ruled time and time again that the police have no duty to protect an individual citizen, and you should have no expectation of that individual protection.
The problem with the deduction that comes naturally from the above statement — therefore, I had better protect myself — is that very few of us are prepared to exist in what the late Colonel Jeff Cooper called “Condition Yellow” all the time. “Yellow” means that you are mentally alert and prepared to use force in your own defense. “Condition White”, on the other hand, is what happens when you’re asleep, daydreaming, using both hands to repair an automobile or tie your mistress to the hotel bed, playing Lumineers tunes on an Adirondack-topped acoustic guitar, or making your way through the tenth “Challenging Stage” of Galaga. Chances are that you’re in “White” right now. To test for this, have someone in the same room with you, no matter how large that room is, point their finger at you and say “Bang” quietly. If you weren’t prone on the floor with your personal weapon out before they finished the word, you’re in White. Congratulations! You’re not paranoid.
No Fixed Abode: You Gotta Be Rich to Own a Cheap Car.
If you’re a fan of automotive personality Matt Farah and/or his show, “The Smoking Tire”, you probably know that Matt recently bought a 1996 Lexus LS400 with 897,000 documented miles on the clock. That’s right. Do not adjust your television. That’s nearly a million.
You might also know that “The Driver”, Alex Roy, and I took the Lexus from Long Beach to Texas and beyond, finally coming to a halt in my hometown of Powell, Ohio. If you’re really up to speed on the adventures of the Million Mile Lexus, you know that it’s currently in the hands of Jalopnik contributor “Tavarish”, who drove it from Upper Arlington, Ohio to New York.
Take a minute and read the above paragraph again. I drove it to Powell; Tavarish drove it from Upper Arlington. And thereby hangs a tale.
No Fixed Abode: They Got This One Right, Except They Didn't.
If you want to be recognized for your brilliance, it’s best to do something that is less than completely brilliant. The reason for this is simple: Ideas that are very good but less than truly brilliant are generally well-received by the critics and the public. I can give you a million examples, from the Dyson vacuum to any novel by Maragret Atwood to the album The Lumineers, by The Lumineers. All that is required to be lauded as brilliant is to create or perform something that wouldn’t naturally occur to the dimmest member of your audience, and you are good to go.
Should you be so bold as to do something that is actually brilliant, however, you will only suffer one of two fates. You may be ignored, in the manner of post-1850 Melville or pre-Volkswagen-commercial Nick Drake. Worse yet, you may succeed beyond your wildest imagination, at which point it will be the firm opinion of everyone around you that you had only done the natural, nay, the obvious thing. Your work will be taken from you by the critics and given to your surroundings, or your time, or your generation. Historians will suggest that anyone could have done it, given your circumstances. A simultaneous discoverer will be discovered. Your success will be dismissed as having been certain from the beginning.
It’s a tough gig, doing something brilliant. Look at the people who designed the second-generation Prius. But it’s even tougher when you bet the proverbial farm on the results. As Ford did, eighteen long years ago around this time.
No Fixed Abode: Holding Corvette to the Same Standard.
My friend Jon put this video up on YouTube a few months ago, showing me driving a certain magazine’s long-term C7 at Shenandoah from the perspective of his C5 Z06. (A video from my perspective is after the jump.) It’s readily apparent from the way it scoots away into the distance just how fast and how pleasant to drive the newest Corvette is. That alone has been enough for me to recommend it over any of Porsche’s current offerings, the same way I recommended the C6 Z06 over any of the Porsches available at *that* time. Recently, however, I’ve been taken to task for wearing rose-colored glasses when it comes to the reliability of the fantastic thermoplastic near-supercar, and I’m afraid my critics have a valid point.
No Fixed Abode: What's the Value of a Ferrari, Anyway?
Let’s get this straight: when it comes to what the used-car manager at the Ford dealership where I used to work called “pointy-nose cars”, I’m a Viper guy. No street car has ever captured my heart the way the Viper did once they let the thing have six hundred horsepower, a little bit of aero help, and a VVT-extended rev range. So when I found out the lineup for Road&Track‘s PCOTY 2014, my eyes went directly to the line on the sheet that said “Viper TA”. I stole extra time in the Viper, both on track and out in the Hocking Hills. I probably drove it twice as much as anybody else did, and if they’d let me drive it more, I’d have driven it more.
Not that anybody I know cared a single bit about that. To a man (and woman), they had one question: “What’s that 458 Speciale like?”
No Fixed Abode: Stick It to 'em.
“A little learning”, wrote the crippled poet from his infamous grotto, “is a dangerous thing.” Here’s an example. What effect does the choice of a manual transmission have on resale value? If, like me, you’ve bought and sold cars for more than twenty-five years now, your snap response will be “Manual transmissions sell for more.”
This being 2014, however, some kid with access to secondhand Manheim auction reports will strain his mousing finger with a detailed correction of that assertion, complete with dozens of copy-and-pasted sale records. You cannot argue with his data — it’s right there in black and white. Manual transmission cars are worth less. But you know he’s wrong somehow, because you’ve been in the trenches and you’ve worked deals yourself.
Maybe the problem isn’t with you, or the kid’s data. Maybe it’s a case of simply not understanding what that data means.
No Fixed Abode: The Dark Side of Unintended Consequences.
To some very large degree, the automotive world as we know it today was fashioned by two major advances. The first was the implementation of effective and reliable engine control computers, which handle everything from emissions compliance to knock control silently and competently. We take it for granted now that cars start immediately, run perfectly from sea level to the top of Mount Evans, never smoke, stumble, or ping, and return real-world fuel mileage that is often triple that of their Seventies predecessors.
The second advance started around 1992 and it’s known as the “silica miracle”. Replacing some percentage of the carbon black in automotive tires with silica dramatically increases grip and tire life while reducing rolling resistance significantly. The Prius wouldn’t be nearly as amazing without low-rolling-resistance tires, and those tires couldn’t happen without silica. But it’s not just the eco-Mouseketeers who are benefiting from it. Today’s performance tires are so much better than their 1990-and-before predecessors it’s difficult for younger enthusiasts to truly understand the gap in capabilities. It was once taken for granted that performance cars like the Acura NSX or Porsche 911 ate their tires every five thousand miles and handled like they were on greased roller skates the minute the road became shiny with rain. Without silica tires, the enduro series like the 24 Hours of Lemons, ChumpCar, and AER would still have tire changes every two hours.
In fact, today’s automotive tires are so good, it’s possible to use them in ways that were never intended.
No Fixed Abode: The Secret Second Life of Gilded Trucks.
You know it’s true: When you have a particular car on your mind, or when you’re driving a car that you don’t normally drive, you’ll see more examples of that car on the road than you would otherwise. The mind’s funny like that. Good thing it is; the ability to ignore things most of the time is all that keeps us sane.
Last week I found myself driving a previous-generation Chevy Tahoe, a 2009 model, quite a bunch. It was an LTZ with all the trimmings, robust and healthy after ninety-four thousand miles under the Albuquerque sun. There was a lot to do. A lot of things to move in, and out, and around. Eight truckloads of trash and cardboard, which would have been six in a Suburban but it would have been fifty in an Accord Coupe so I knew better than to bitch about it. The sheer ponderousness of the thing depresses and annoys me, the space it covers on the road. The last full-sized truck I drove on a consistent basis was a 1996 F-150 XL Supercab five-liter, bright red, loaned to me as a dealer demonstrator for 5,750 miles then returned to dealer stock. It must have been half the size of this pearl white elephant. Driving it in traffic is like swimming in thick mud.
Still, the Tahoe occupied my mind as the failure-prone five-point-three listlessly groaned it through traffic, and I saw all sorts of GMT Nine Hundreds. Escalades finishing out their leases, Suburbans with a hundred-pound mother flailing behind the wheel and a child the size of a roast turkey in the middle of the middle seat, gloss-red regular cab Silverados doing cable installation. By the time I saw the fiftieth black-with-tinted-windows Yukon Denali, my sensitivity to them had almost slipped back beneath the waterline. But there was something different about this one.
No Fixed Abode: Four on Six.
As 1977 drew to a close, my father finally agreed to let my mother have the new car he’d promised her earlier in the year. Mom’s Volvo was only three years old but it was already rusting and erratic in cold mornings. They went to some Oldsmobile dealership in Baltimore to see the new-for-1978 Cutlass Supreme coupes. It was the era of the personal luxury coupe and the Cutlass was the alpha dog in the pack. To Dad’s annoyance, however, Mom didn’t want the square-edged Malaise superstar. No, she wanted the one seventy-seven they had left in stock. Dark blue Supreme, light blue top and interior. Color-matched rally wheels. Most importantly, it had the 403. Absurdly oversquare engine. Whisper quiet but when the light went green it shoved. We went home from the dealer with what Dad considered to be a used car already. He didn’t really care, he was rocking a ’77 LeSabre sedan and Yves Saint Laurent prêt-à-porter, yo.
Once I was strong enough to pull the release and pop the hood, I’d stand on the front bumper and stare into the engine compartment. By the time Mom chopped in the Cutlass on a black Civic “S” the 403 was obscure and obsolete, simultaneously laughable for its gauche thirst and frightening in its deep-chested power. It was the last of its kind, the last to believe you could make it happen with cubic inches alone, the last Rocket V8, three hundred and twenty pound-feet, a dinosaur roaring alone on the showroom floor among the three point eight liter proto-mammals, staring unconcernedly at the bright flash in the sky.
Thirty-seven years later, it’s time for another extinction.
No Fixed Abode: The Rental Reviews Will Continue Until Morale Improves.
Well, here I am — just a contributor again, and no longer the EIC. It’s freeing. Reminds me of when I was just a fresh-faced twentysomething doing competitive pin-and-plate shooting back in the days of the Clinton Administration. Back then, I had a good friend who worked at the best of the local gun shops and who sold me a lot of the equipment I used to [s]participate in[/s] dominate various events. Then as now, gun shops are notorious for being a place where people discuss ridiculous theories or misinformation, and it was a particular and oft-sampled pleasure for this fellow to stand impassively with his hands on the counter for as long as it took for a customer to get it all off their chests before saying, “You’re wrong, and I’ll tell you why.”
When Jalopnik’s Raphael Orlove did us the courtesy of promoting my Malibu rental review, a few people brought up the usual chestnut that “you shouldn’t review rental cars, it’s not fair to the car companies” and so on. Well, those people are wrong, one of them in particular, and I’m going to tell them why.
No Fixed Abode: You Did What They Asked, and Now You're Going to Pay.
You’ve heard this story before: A scorpion asks a frog to carry him across the water.
No Fixed Abode: The Cadillac-Killer Ford's Afraid To Build
Few topics stir the blood of the Best&Brightest like the future of the Lincoln brand. Some of you agree with me that the company should build a new Continental. Others think that Ford should, as Michael Dell once famously stated of Apple in the pre-iMac era, sell the assets and distribute the money to the shareholders. Lincoln has platform problems, dealer problems, image problems, and competition problems — but the biggest problem Lincoln faces is its parent company’s current product line.
No Fixed Abode: Where Were You When the Convertible Died?
Note: I’ve used the title “Avoidable Contact” for years now to denote my editorials in which I’m discussing general automotive issues. With the publication of the new issue of R&T, that title is now in use there. For the foreseeable future, I will be writing two types of editorials here at TTAC. The good-cars-and-bad-women content that has traditionally gone under “Trackday Diaries” will continue to do so, while the stuff that used to be “Avoidable Contact” will now be under “No Fixed Abode”, with a nod of the head to the departed Iain M Banks — JB
The year was 1986 and I, a six-foot-three fourteen-year-old rendered insubstantial by vertical growth and sleepless nights, was chasing my eight-year-old brother through the moonlit woods behind the house of my father’s friends. He, in turn, was pursuing a child somewhere between our ages, who was running after a firefly, or a frog, or perhaps nothing. The noise of a party was fading behind us as we sprinted, hot and sweating in the summer evening, screaming wordlessly ahead, until we burst from the trees into a clearing and fell silent as a group. There was a woman seated in a chromed Everest&Jennings wheelchair, thin, sad-eyed, facing a detached garage and the long, battleship-grey Pontiac parked in front of it.