Friday, June 08, 2007

Fifty, Finned and Fabulous






Graphics & Audio courtesy of NYT

“I think 1957 was a high-water mark for Ford design; Chrysler as well,” said Greg Wallace, manager of General Motors’ Heritage Center in Sterling Heights, Mich.

The enduring popularity, not to mention collectibility, of Chevrolet’s 1957 cars “speaks for itself,” he said, adding, “The ’57 Chevy was quite simply the best-looking car of the entire postwar era.”

It was a Golden Era, but a fleeting one. It would end before the year was out.

Fifty years ago, things were very different for the now-beleaguered Ford Motor Company. Ford’s 1957 lineup was all new for the first time in five years. The 21 models included a restyled Thunderbird sports car, a new generation of F-100 pickups, the car-based Ranchero pickup and the Fairlane 500 Skyliner — the first American convertible with a retractable hardtop. Sales were way up — so much that Ford outsold Chevrolet for the first time since 1935.

Together, Ford and Chevrolet accounted for fully half of American car production.

The public viewed the Chevys and their General Motors siblings as somewhat dowdy compared with competing 1957 cars. Critics derided the G.M. designs as passé because they were essentially makeovers of the 1955-56 models, with high rooflines, voluptuous fenders, short wheelbases and stubby overall lengths — the shoebox look favored by G.M.’s styling czar, Harley J. Earl."

Too cool . . .


Fifty, Finned and Fabulous
NYT, May 20, 2007

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Monday, June 04, 2007

2008 Audi R8




"The car employs Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system, but the torque split is far more rear-biased than on any other Audi. As with its cousin, the Lamborghini Gallardo, the R8 strives to mimic the feel of a rear-drive car, so only 10 to 35 percent of the V-8’s torque is ever sent forward. At one particularly enthusiastic first-gear launch, I was surprised to find the enormous 295/30/19 rear tires spinning briefly before all four wheels dug in and catapulted the car forward. Burnouts are something you don’t expect from an all-wheel-drive Audi, even an RS 4.

As I said, I didn’t get to drive the R8 on a track, and exploring this car’s limits on a public road would constitute sociopathic behavior on par with juggling chainsaws at a baby shower.

But I can tell you that the R8 grips so tenaciously that it wanted to bounce my head into the side glass on right-hand corners, and there was more g-force in reserve. Midengine cars have a slight weight bias to the rear, which is the best possible setup for maximum grip. Meanwhile, all-wheel drive delivers outstanding traction. Combine a midengine design with all-wheel drive and you have a lesson in what it feels like to have the force of gravity applied to your noggin on the lateral plane.

The stereotypical knock on high-performance Audis is that they put up impressive numbers without delivering much in the way of driver involvement. The R8 delivers the numbers, certainly — 187 m.p.h. top speed and 0 to 125 m.p.h. in 14.9 seconds, to name a couple — but it also has soul."

Growling at the Exotics’ Door
Behind the Wheel | 2008 Audi R8
NYT, May 20, 2007

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Monday, April 30, 2007

Built to Last

Some people buy cars because they fall in love with the style, the curves, the attitude of something new. But a lot of people buy cars for the same reason they buy a dishwasher: They need an appliance to do a job.

There's good news for the latter group: Cars really are lasting longer, and that is starting to have an impact on the way the car business works from the factory to the dealership.


  Passenger Cars Light Trucks*
  50% survived until age Expected lifetime travel
in miles
50% survived until age Expected lifetime travel
in miles
1977 Data 10.5 107,000 14 128,000
1990 Data 12.5 127,000 15.5 154,000
2001 Data 13.0 152,000 14 180,000
*Light trucks include pickups, vans, and sport utility vehicles under 10,000 pounds GVWR.

Here's an excerpt from a recent WSJ analysis on the subject:

"In 1977, half the cars on the road survived until they were 10.5 years old and you could expect to put about 107,000 miles on a car during its useful life, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data. By 1990, half the cars put into service stayed on the road for 12.5 years, and owners could expect to get 127,000 miles out of their vehicles.

The government's latest survey, using 2001 data, found that 50% of cars were lasting 13 years, and drivers could expect to roll up 152,000 miles on a new vehicle over its life.

The data for light trucks, the category that includes pickups, sport utility vehicles and minivans, make a choppier graph. The government's measure of 50% survival rates for light trucks has bounced from 14 years for 1977, up to 15.5 years in the 1990 sample and back down to 14 years in the 2001 sample. But the expectation for miles traveled over the vehicle's life has risen to 180,000 miles as of 2001 from 128,000 in the 1977 survey.

There are other signs that consumers are hanging on to cars longer. Although 2004 was a pretty good year for new-vehicle sales, with 17.4 million registered, only 11.9 million vehicles were sent to the junkyard. The vehicles scrapped in 2004 were equivalent to just 5.4% of total vehicles registered. A decade earlier, the number of vehicles scrapped was 6.6% of total registered vehicles. At one time, car makers assumed that roughly 8% of vehicles on the road would get scrapped in any given year."

Sales data suggests a lot of consumers put a high value on brands that have a track record of delivering cars that last. The brands that had the biggest market-share gains during the 2000-to-2005 period -- BMW, Toyota, Nissan and Honda -- also had relatively strong records for functional reliability, according to an analysis by Walden Consultants. Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge and Chrysler have lost share or stayed flat in that period, and they also have worse-than-average reliability records.


Cars' Useful Lives Are Longer Than Ever,
Sending Ripples Through Auto Industry

February 27, 2006; Page D3

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Round Cars


IT looks like a Volkswagen Microbus, the sort that starred in last year’s film “Little Miss Sunshine,” somehow squeezed into a sphere six feet in diameter.

The ball is the work of the artist Lars-Eric Fisk of Burlington, Vt., who specializes in sphere-shaped sculpture. His work has been shown in museums including the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Lincoln, Mass., outside Boston, and the Dartmouth College museum.

In the catalog for the DeCordova exhibition, he called the sphere was a “simple, seamless form expressing movement and the concept of endlessness and timelessness without a beginning, without an ending.”

“Everyone gets it,” Mr. Fisk said of his use of the sphere in a recent interview.

He completed the VW ball in 1999. “I don’t know why, but the VW ball keeps surfacing every few years on the Internet,” he said.

The VW ball is in a private collection. Mr. Fisk, who was born in Vermont in 1970, has made other balls with auto themes: a school bus, a green John Deere tractor, a drab brown U.P.S. truck and a white Mister Softee ice cream truck, complete with lights.

“A U.P.S. guy saw the U.P.S. ball and stopped by the house of the owner,” Mr. Fisk said. “He thought it was a package ready for shipping.”

His spheres come with windows and steering wheels. He does all the work using metal and glass fabrication skills he taught himself. He has also sculptured a street ball, a sphere of asphalt marked with painted dotted lines. Mr. Fisk’s barn ball, with wood painted red and a window, was used for the cover of the Phish album “Round Room.”

He has moved beyond the balls into new modes of sculpture. “The new theme for some reason seems to be garbage,” he said. Among his latest pieces, shown at the Taxter & Spengemann Gallery in Manhattan, is a sculpture of a garbage can and another of a garbage bag. PHIL PATTON


If the Vehicle Is Round, Wheels Are Unnecessary
NYT, April 1, 2007

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Lexicon of Auto Designers

Nice description of Auto Designer terms:


courtesy of NYT

Every profession has its lingo. A list of common terms — and a few of the most colorful ones — can come in handy. With cars, words and metal share territory: each brand’s vocabulary of shapes is collectively known as its design language.

The beltline divides the greenhouse, or glassed-in upper body, from the portion that extends down from the window sills. Equally important is the A-line, said Michael Castiglione, principal exterior designer at DaimlerChrysler’s Pacifica studio in Carlsbad, Calif. The A-line runs the length of the body from headlight to taillight, tracing the car’s silhouette. The car may also have a character line, a crease formed in the sheet metal of the sides.

Vehicles are said to have styling cues that prompt viewers to recognize models by their resemblance to other family members — a brand’s characteristic shapes and flourishes, the form of its grille or the arc of the roofline.


Body Language: How to Talk the Designers’ Talk
NYT, April 1, 2007

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Porsche Designed Yacht

Fearless_yacht3Pretty cool looking:



Porsche Design Studios is bringing some Stuttgart style to the boating business with its first-ever seacraft (the waterlogged 928 in Risky Business doesn't count). Set to debut at the Miami Boat Show, the 28-foot-long high-speed cruiser is a collaboration with Florida-based upstart Fearless Yachts. "We reached out and said, 'You have a blank canvas,'" says Fearless CEO Jeffrey Binder, and the German creatives set about designing a luxury racer that could dominate what they dubbed the "aquabahn."

The boat boasts a fiberglass hull with the sleek curves and lean silhouette of a European coupe, and its "unitized," or seamless, construction does away with unsightly rivets that might slow it down. There's also a 525-horsepower Viper engine that helps the craft reach a top speed of 80 mph, which may not break any world records but will make you grateful for the Latham precision steering controls. Should 28 feet (and room for five) prove insufficient for your entourage, Porsche and Fearless are expanding the line to include vessels of up to 150 feet in length, and while the prices may be steep—the 28 starts at $300,000—they have this advantage: They manage to make a 911 look like a bargain.

Yanko Design via Trader

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Ford Sells Aston Martin

Click for video


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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

1959 Cadillac Cyclone Concept car

Very cool concept car -- the forerunner of the Batmobile:


Via Serious Wheels

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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Classic Car Club

A block or so in front of my building, I spotted these hotties  from the Classic Car Club of NY:


Fort GT and Lamborghini Gallardo

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Aston Martins Hold Their Appeal


Gorgeous car, huh?

"The consensus among enthusiasts is that Ford’s reign over Aston Martin has been largely benevolent. Still, the question among collectors is how a change of ownership may affect the value of older Aston Martins.

Just as Fender Stratocasters and Telecasters made before the company’s takeover by CBS are the only instruments that matter for collectors, most of the collecting activity in Aston Martins is with cars produced during the marque’s golden era of 1947 to 1972, when it was owned by David Brown, a British industrialist.

The DB4 and DB5 of 1958-65 are generally considered the apex of the David Brown era (he’s the DB in the model names) and are among the loveliest front-engine grand touring cars ever produced. Built using the complicated Italian superleggera method — draping hand-wrought alloy body panels over a frame of tiny steel tubes — they were built to blast safely across European motorways, autostradas, autobahns and routes nationale, at speeds in excess of 100 miles an hour. And they had to look good parked in front of places like Brenner’s Park-Hotel and Spa in Baden-Baden, Germany, or the Gstaad Palace hotel in Switzerland."

There's a lot more Astom martin info here, here and here.


Classic Aston Martins Holding Their Appeal
NYT, January 21, 2007

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