By on September 26, 2010

Yes, I can muster some appreciation of Econolines of yore. But the painful reality is that the current E-Series is an ugly, primitive and inefficient pig virtually unchanged since 1974.  The fact that the American light truck sector hasn’t had the same revolution that European design influences have had on passenger cars is a mystery. Case in point: Ford’s Transit (not Connect) vans are a (several, actually) giant development leap ahead of the Econoline, offering FWD, RWD and AWD variants in three wheelbase lengths, numerous configurations, and driven by the most advanced diesels that can get well over 20 mpg. The Transit outsells Mercedes Sprinter in Europe. What the hell is Ford waiting for? (Read More…)

By on July 21, 2010

This is a continuation: part one is here.

After leaving the studio in St. Louis Saturday night, I found myself with the luxury of having absolutely nothing to do until one o’clock the following day. My guitars were locked up, I’d left my laptop at home, and I didn’t have so much as a magazine to read. This was not by accident. Sometimes it’s important to have no plans, to deliberately encounter what I think of as a “null state”.

The Transit Connect and I wandered past Forest Park, where just a few blocks separate gated-off private streets and boarded-up low-income housing. The white panel van is welcome everywhere; it is universally recognized as a vehicle driven by the service class. I waved at a security guard who silently swung a huge wrought-iron barrier out of the way and let me into his deliberately isolated neighborhood. Twenty minutes later, two vicious-looking men in a street full of broken-down cars and idle observers stopped their hand-waving disagreement to let me through. I am nobody in particular. I am here to fix, install, adjust, clean.

The invisibility conferred upon me by this little van made me think of all the times I had felt invisible in my youth, cleaning tables in restaurants, working on construction sites, bagging groceries. I realized that I could stop and sleep anywhere, that this van could come to a halt in an industrial-center parking lot or out in front of the largest home in St. Louis. This was freedom: I am nobody, and I have nothing to do.

(Read More…)

By on July 19, 2010

This is not a review of the Transit Connect. That’s coming next month courtesy of another TTAC writer. This is a story about childhood, loneliness, obsession, friendship, the Gateway Arch and its ridiculous security humiliations, and what happens when four old white guys play a Rage Against The Machine song in a state-of-the-art studio. You’ve been warned.

There’s this company, you see, called St. Louis Music. If you’ve ever heard of Dan Armstrong, Ampeg, or Crate, you’ve heard of “SLM”. They used to make good stuff, and they made a lot of it in the United States. During the Seventies, the product quality of many US-made items was in the toilet. The Big Two of American guitars, Gibson and Fender, seemed to be engaged in a war where the prize was bankruptcy and the weapons were crap guitars, high prices, indifferent corporate ownership, and refusal to listen to their dealers.

(Read More…)

By on June 3, 2010

Worried about the high MSRPs on most of the electric vehicles scheduled for launch over the next year? Don’t forget to include the cost of buying and installing a home charging station. Nissan reckons the charger for its Leaf will cost about $2,200, including a home electrical inspection [er, that’s a medical marijuana grow…] and installation. Oh, and it won’t be Nissan coming into your home: Aerovironment, a firm otherwise best known for its Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, has the contract to supply and install the Leaf’s charger. Coulomb Technologies supplies the home charger for Ford’s first EV, the Transit Connect EV, and according to Automotive News [sub], they’re partnering with Ford to give chargers away to the first 2,000 buyers of the electric-drive delivery van. But, as usual with good news in the EV sector, the charger giveaway is actually being funded by tax dollars…

(Read More…)

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