You would think that after 34 years of having the same guitar teacher, I would be better than I am. Yet that’s not really an accurate statement. From the ages of 12 to 14, I went weekly to The String Shoppe on the Ohio State campus for weekly instruction that frustrated more than it educated. My teacher, also named John, was a former New York studio musician specializing in big band and jazz music. I wanted to play Judas Priest riffs. The results were lackluster, to say the least, so I quit in favor of racing my BMX bike.
Two decades later, I sought John out again for some help in playing the old jazz standards to which I had finally come around. In the years since, he has suffered through a series of health scares and personal reversals, while my travel and parenting schedule has accelerated to something just sort of Warp Speed Nine, so nowadays when we meet it’s on short notice and it’s usually just to noodle around on a James Taylor song or something like “East Of The Sun” for an hour or so. It has been a long time since any money has changed hands.
When I stopped by John’s home studio on Saturday — rather predictably, the two songs we fussed with were “Anywhere like Heaven” and “Over The Rainbow” — he expressed interest in the Lotus Evora 400 I’ve been driving as a “long-termer,” while I noted that he’d chopped in his 2015 Accord LX for a 2018 Acura ILX. The conversation that followed has stuck with me all weekend.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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- Namesakeone If you want a Thunderbird like your neighbor's 1990s model, this is not the car. This is a Fox-body car, which was produced as a Thunderbird from MY 1980 through 1988 (with styling revisions). The 1989-1997 car, like your neighbor's, was based on the much heavier (but with independent rear suspension) MN-15 chassis.
- Inside Looking Out I watched only his Youtube channel. Had no idea that there is TV show too. But it is 8 years or more that I cut the cable and do not watch TV except of local Fox News. There is too much politics and brainwashing including ads on TV. But I am subscribed to CNBC Youtube channel.
- Jeff S Just to think we are now down to basically 3 minivans the Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna. I wonder how much longer those will last. Today's minivan has grown in size over the original minivans and isn't so mini anymore considering it is bigger than a lot of short wheel based full size vans from the 70s and 80s. Back in the 70s and 80s everything smaller was mini--mini skirt, mini fridge, mini car, and mini truck. Mini cars were actually subcompact cars and mini trucks were compact trucks. Funny how some words are so prevalent in a specific era and how they go away and are unheard of in the following decades.
- Jeff S Isn't this the same van Mercury used for the Villager? I believe it was the 1s and 2nd generations of this Quest.
- VoGhost I don't understand the author's point. Two of the top five selling vehicles globally are Teslas. We have great data on the Model 3 for the past 5 years. What specifically is mysterious about used car values?