Where's The Beef?

 Here's Ford's new Edge CUV. It's handsome as far as SUV's go, and I hope it's a success for Ford.

 Of course, it's really just a Mazda CX-7 in Ford duds, but at least it's not immediately apparent that they share platforms.

 The only thing that irks me about the Edge is the weight. This thing is carrying around 600 more pounds than the CX-7. Six hundred pounds! It's got a more powerful engine than the CX-7, but because of the extra poundage it's actually slower, and gets worse fuel mileage too. Hell, it weighs more than the Freestyle, a larger vehicle.

 It would have been nice to have the Ford be the better vehicle, in performance and economy, but it looks like Ford engineers just weren't that clever.

 Three Month Absence

 In case anyone was wondering why this blog was silent for three months, we've produced a short video offering an explanation...

 Late To The Party

 Ford's done a restyle on the 2008 Escape, and it's less than impressive.

 I guess this would be enough if your competition was standing still, since it looks an awful lot like the 2006 Honda CR-V.

 But, the competition has not been idle, and this mild refresh of the Escape does not arm it well enough to fend off the new CR-V...

 or juggernaut Toyota's new RAV4.

 Once again we find Ford at the rear of the class when it comes to cutting-edge design, something that used to be Ford's turf back in the 80's when Honda and Toyota were making little boxy sedans.


 I'm in an Isuzu mood today, so here's some links about one of my favorite (ex)car companies...

 Wikipedia article on Asuna, a short-lived GM brand that sold a rebadged Isuzu Impulse as the Sunfire.

 IsuzuPiazza.com, a forum for owners of Isuzu Piazzas (the Impulse in the USA).

 Isuzone.org, another forum for Isuzu Impulse/Geo Storm owners.

 A Trip To The Cafe

"We were in love with speed,"

 There's sportbikes, standards, and streetfighters, but my fave style of bike has got to be the cafe racer. Wonderfully minimalist, they sum up the essence of speed in a way few machines achieve. Check out this article for a short history of cafe racers from Cycle World, and then visit Steve "Carpy" Carpenter's site, cb750cafe.com to see more of these beautiful machines.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 If At First You Don't Succeed...

 Give up! Apparently, so sayeth GM about it's line of minivans. The Detroit News is reporting that GM is probably going to drop out of the segment, instead focusing on crossovers. Umm, yeah.

 "We do believe it is a declining segment," GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz told The News on Tuesday. "Our new crossovers, Acadia, Outlook and Enclave with their three rows of seats and economical V-6 engines, can meet the same customer needs, minus the 'Soccer Mom' stigma.."

 Yeah, it was worth it to spend all that money to redesign GM's full-size SUV's that aren't selling. Of course, having a coherent naming strategy would have helped too. Astro, Lumina APV, Venture, and now Uplander. Hard to make a name for yourself if you keep changing your damn name. Abandoning market segments is not a way forward, but I guess in GM's case there is no way forward. It's all downhill from here on out.

 The Master Of Ergonomics?

 Having worked as a technician for a Honda dealer for the last four months has exposed me to many of Honda's models from the past two decades. While it is true that they are very reliable machines overall, the reputation Honda has as a master of ergonomics perplexes me. I see little evidence of it, finding that usually it's done well, but not any better than other manufacturers out there. And sometimes Honda makes some monumental mistakes.

 The Element has the shifter mounted on the dash, slightly awkward if the transmission is an automatic, absolutely infuriating if it's a manual. Why? There's nothing to support your arm while shifting, maximizing your fatigue while caught in rush hour traffic or enjoying a twisting road. While some may consider taking an Element down a tight, curvy road a recipe for disaster, taking the last gen Civic Si should be a joy, except for the same shifter-on-the-dash design. Different is not automatically better.

 Talking about the Civic, the current design features an unusual split-level instrument cluster. The tach is on the bottom, while the digital speedometer is on the top tier. It's disconcerting at first, and serves no purpose other than to make the tach basically useless. All the magazines say they grew accustomed to it. I say The Master of Ergonomics shouldn't design something you have to grow accustomed to.

 Then there's the CR-V with the not quite column mounted, not quite dash mounted shifting column. Or the Prelude with the neo-Buick dash, placing some of the gauges in the middle of the car to "include the passenger" in the driving experience. The list goes on, but the point is that the Master of Ergonomics doesn't really deserve the title.

 As a side point, I have yet to see any mention that the current Civic features a radio design that is not removable, being an integral part of the dash. Apparently Honda thinks they know best when it comes to car audio. This goes against the whole "personalize your machine" movement that Scion has latched onto. Good move Honda.

Vintage Poetry

Here's a little poem from 1916 about driving, and it's suprisingly relevant to today, especially my parents! Courtesy of Tickin' T's of Central Ohio.


Before we take an auto ride Pa says to Ma: "My dear,

Now just remember I don’t need suggestions from the rear.

If you will just sit still back there and hold in check your fright,

I’ll take you where you want to go and get you back all right.

Remember that my hearing’s good and also I’m not blind.

And, I can drive this car without suggestions from behind."

Ma promises that she’ll keep still, then off we gaily start,

But soon she notices ahead a peddler and his cart.

"You’d better toot your horn." Says she, "to let him know we’re near;

He might turn out!" and Pa replies: "just shriek at him, my dear."

And then he adds: "some day, some guy will make a lot of dough

By putting horns on tonneau seats for women-folks to blow!"

A little farther on Ma cries: "He signaled for a turn!"

And Pa says: "Did he?" in a tone that’s hot enough to burn.

"Oh, there’s a boy on roller skates!" cries Ma. "Now do go slow.

I’m sure he doesn’t see our car." And Pa says, "I dunno,

I think I don’t need glasses yet, but really it may be

That I am blind and cannot see what’s right in front of me."

If Pa should speed the car a bit some rigs to hurry past

Ma whispers: "Do be careful now. You’re driving much too fast."

And all the time she’s pointing out the dangers of the street

And keeps him posted on the roads where trolley cars he’ll meet.

Last night when we got safely home, Pa sighed and said: "My dear,

I’m sure we’ve all enjoyed the drive that you gave us from the rear!"

This interesting rhyme was copied from a book printed in 1916
entitled "A HEAP O’LIVIN" by Edgar A. Guest.

 The Ultimate Dumb Move

 Advertising Age is reporting that BMW is changing their slogan. The Ultimate Driving Machine is becoming A Company Of Ideas. If that's the best they could come up with, then it's a company full of BAD ideas.

 Import Central

 Wow, there's an importer for JDM vehicles in Atlanta, GA!

 Their website is here.

 Growing Up Geauga

 Is the attraction to cars and speed genetic, or can it be influenced by events in your life? I grew up in Aurora, Ohio, home to Geauga Lake Park, one of the oldest amusement parks around (founded in 1888). My parents would get season passes, and we would go almost every weekend in the summer. I spent much of my youth riding the Double Loop, the Corkscrew, and the Big Dipper.

 Just how much of my passion for cars is owed to these great roller coasters? More on Geauga Lake here, here, and here.

Video Sunday

 Since it's sunday, we'll take a trip down memory lane courtesy of YouTube. First up is an old Toyota commercial from 1985.

 Again from 1985, it's the commercial that introduced the MR2.

 It's the Punch it Margeret! Camry commercial. We still say this today in my family whenever my Mom gets on the gas!

 Nissan had some great commercials for the Z, here's two of the best.

 Acura did a better job promoting the Integra as a sports car than a luxury car, and the tradition continues with the RSX>

 One of my all-time favorites, it's the Nissan Maxima Top Gun pigeons, from the 1997 Superbowl!

 And finally, something not car related, but it is relevant to this website. The Dreamcast was the machine that first connected me to the internet.

 Parallel Parking

 Saturday video fun!


 I don't know why you would, but here's the Hondamino.

 Office Scoot

 The Scooter Scoop brings us a look at some gorgeous lamps created by artist Leopardi Maurizio.

 There's a gallery here of more lamps. Of course, $1200 for a lamp is pushing it a little, even if it is art.


 Take a look at the photo. Looks like an Isuzu Impulse with a Chevy badge on the front, but a closer inspection shows something more.

 It's a Cavalier with an Impulse front end, and it's done quite well. Check out the owner's CarDomain site.

 Did Bangle Get Hired By Lexus?

 One of the distinguishing features of Lexus has been their near perfect dashes over the years. Always elegantly understated, never trendy or gimmicked, but I don't know what to make of the dash on the new ES350.

 It just looks wrong, like something you would see in a Daewoo, not a Lexus. I like the previous version a hell of a lot more.

 I know Lexus is trying to put more passion into their designs, but this cockpit is a mistake.

 Mach 1 For The 21st Century?

 The Kneeslider brings us a look at the Street Ray, the latest motorcycle-engined car.

 Factory Flag

 Toyota factory workers in England made a giant flag from 400 Toyota Yaris's (Yarii??) to encourage their Team to win the World Cup.

 Bosses at the plant were 100% behind the idea, not only juggling teams and shifts to make sure the flag was ready but also so that their workers can watch the big game.

 The UAW is up in arms! Workers and management cooperating, that's not how it's supposed to happen!!

 The Sexy Buick?

 Finally, after God knows how many years, Buick shows us something sexy! Take a look at the new Enclave.

 Autoblog has some interior shots, or you can just go to the official website. First the Solstice, now the Enclave, GM's management may not be in crisis mode, but it looks like the designers and engineers are starting to get the mesage. Let's hope it's not too late.

 Your Kung Fu Is Strong

 CARkeys has an article on Feng Shui for cars.

 Negative energy inside the car can be countered by singing, clapping your hands or playing music "to make a statement that it is now your cleared space and will go forward refreshed and free from past events" (but be careful about playing music through a Bluetooth connection, obviously).

 That just about sums it up.

No Hybrids?

 The reviews are coming in for cars, so let the weirdness begin. Manohla Dargis at the New York Times reviewed the film, and came away disappointed. Why? Because there nothing actually alive in the film.

 Welcome to Weirdsville, Cartoonland, where automobiles race — and rule — in a world that, save for a thicket of tall pines and an occasional scrubby bush, is freakishly absent any organic matter. Here, even the bugs singeing their wings on the porch light look like itty-bitty Volkswagen beetles.

 In fact, Manohla even compares the film to The Terminator!!!

An animated fable about happy cars might have made sense before gas hit three bucks a gallon, but even an earlier sticker date couldn't shake the story's underlying creepiness, which comes down to the fact that there's nothing alive here: nada, zip. In this respect, the film can't help but bring to mind James Cameron's dystopic masterpiece, "The Terminator," which hinges on the violent war of the machine world on its human masters.

 Apparently a world ruled by cars is scary to some people, and they feel the need to attack it. Never mind that the vast majority of people feel that their cars are "alive", endowing them with personalities and even names. My recommendation? Go see the movie and enjoy. Unless you're a tree hugging enviromentalist, then go see Who Killed The Electric Car.

 Gimme More Brands

 It's often said that GM has too many brands. Watching the History Channel today, I saw a program on the history of Buick. In the show they mentioned a GM brand called Oakland, so I had to look it up. Turns out that GM has had many brands over the years, including Oakland. There was LaSalle, Marquette, and Viking. Looks like the current crisis isn't the only time that GM has faced the possibility of shedding some brands.

 New Paradigm

 By now everyone's heard the news about Hyundai's excellent ranking on the latest JD Power quality survey. It used to be that the powerhouses of the sedan world were the Accord, Camry, and Taurus. Now, it's shifted to Accord, Camry, Sonata. Amazing that Hyundai could come from the bottom and work their way to the top.

 It took Hyundai only 20 years, shorter than the over 30 years the big three have been trying (and failing). Doh!

 Badge Engineering

 World Car Fans has a short article on the origin of the Subaru logo. I knew it represented the Pleiades, but I didn't know Subaru meant unite. Interesting!


 BMW wanted to makea statement. They gave some students at the Royal College of Art an assignment: create art out of BMW parts. What did they get? Screwed.

 Fist place was Screw by Enrico Gualesi. Right. Next time you leave a screw sitting on top of a table, be careful. If you use it, you're destroying art!

 Reatta Rehash

 It should come as no suprise that the Chevy SSR is ending production.

 The GM Craft Center is mentioned, the plant where the SSR is built. It used to be called the Reatta Craft Center, built to make the Buick Reatta, another twoseat GM vehicle that failed. Just what do they craft there anyways, headstones? If Solstice and Sky production moves there, you can bet those models will also be on the way out. That plant is cursed.

 The Genius Of Schrader

 You'll find it on bicycles, motorcycles, cars, ATV's, commercial trucks, and construction equipment. It's probably the only interchangeable component all these vehicles share.

 The little Schrader valve, one of the unsung heroes of the automotive world. Imagine what life would be like if everyone used their own design.

 Kodachrome Zen

 The Kneeslider has a link to a gallery of pictures from the roadtrip featured in Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance. A must visit if you've ever read the book.

 Old Marques Never Die...

 Rick Haglund points out that in February, Oldsmobile sold 92 new vehicles! 64 Alero's, 19 Bravada's, and 9 Silhouette's, all unsold from when Oldsmobile production ended almost two years ago. Just when will the last new Olds be sold?

Perception Is Reality

 Some of the domestic cars fall behind because they aren't redesigned quickly enough," he said, noting that the popular Toyota Camry has been redesigned three times since 1998.

 The top three brands for predicted reliability were Lexus, Honda and Toyota.

Ford vehicles were found to have the best long-term durability on average among Detroit automakers.

 The magazine's analysis of reliability over several years found the average 3-year-old Ford or Chrysler has as many problems as an 8-year-old Toyota.

 These are all quotes from an article about Consumer's Reports latest annual report on the automotive industry. All of these I have noticed since the mid-eighties, and two decades later nothing has changed. Honda and Toyota are still at the top for reliability, while among the domestics Ford leads the pack, but there is still a sizeable gap between domestic and import.

 The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Breaking The Law?

 If you haven't seen the video of the people driving down an Atlanta interstate at 55mph, go here first. Carpundit points out that while obeying the 55mph speed limit, they broke at least two other traffic laws, namely...

Upon all roadways, any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic...

No two vehicles shall impede the normal flow of traffic by traveling side by side at the same time while in adjacent lanes, provided that this Code section shall not be construed to prevent vehicles traveling side by side in adjacent lanes because of congested traffic conditions.

 Were those two laws actually broken? It depends on how you would define the normal flow of traffic. I would argue that the spirit of the laws was broken, but the letter of the laws can't conflict with the speed limit because it would invalidate the whole concept. I think these people demonstrated their point brilliantly. The speed limit needs to be set at the speed most people are travelling at, not some arbitrary number.

Building A Better Bronco

 For the 2004 season Ford introduced the Bronco concept vehicle, harkening back to the original while managing to look modern at the same time. It's a market niche that only the Jeep Wrangler fills, except that the Wrangler is just a smidge too small. That's the hole the original Bronco exploited, and they are vehicles much loved by Ford truck fans to this day.

 Of course, there are no plans to make the Bronco, and once again Ford has let the competition beat them to the punch. 2007 marks the arrival of the FJ Cruiser from Toyota.

 Taking the Bronco concept to heart, but adding secondary suicide doors, this one is going into production. Another throwback, this time to Toyota's original Land Cruiser (lovingly called the Land Crusher by fans), it's everything that the Bronco could have been if Ford would have stepped up to the plate. Sadly, once again, we see another domestic manufacturer content to follow instead of leading the pack. Whatever happened to the company that brought out the Taurus and changed the world?


 I almost was rear-ended a few days ago by one of these...

 For a split second I could have sworn it was a giant, mutated Scion xB that was about to meld with the rear of my poor Escort.

Short And Sweet

 While Carspace seems like a neat idea, they really need to fire whomever came up with the title. Carspace - The Car Enthusiast's Automotive Lifestyle Social Networking Site. Sounds like a website for car marketeres, not enthusiasts.

Marketing Imitates Life

 The relentless pursuit of perfection was the Lexus motto for a long time, and it perfectly sums up the course Toyota has chosen. Take a look at the new Tundra for a fine example.

 If you remember the first Tundra, the T100, then you know it wasn't even close to what was needed to compete in the full-size truck market. Too little with not enough engine, it was Toyota skipping a stone across the enemy's bow instead of a cannon shot. The second generation aimed closer, with an increase in size and the addition of a proper engine, a V8. Now we come to the new Tundra, and it's fully on target.

 Publically, the competition is acting like the new Tundra is not a threat, but you know they have to be feeling the heat. If you go back to 1983 when the Camry was created, you would never gues that it would eventually be the powerhouse of the sedan market, but Toyota relentlessly improved the design every generation, better sales following better cars.

 With the Tundra and Titan now in F-150 territory, how long can the diehard buyers remain loyal. They've already given up on the domestic cars, does anyone really believe that it won't go the same way for trucks? The new buyers have grown up in the back of Toyotas and Hondas, not Chevys and Fords. If GM and Ford want to continue dominating the truck market, then they better get serious about the car market.

Troubling Quote

"Saab is no longer an independent company that you could sell off as a unit," Lutz said.

 This comes from a Detroit News article here. I find that the most disturbing thing to come out of GM in a while. If Saab is no longer a seperate entity and is now a name only, why in th hell did GM purchase it in the first place? What has been gained in the transaction? GM has a brand with no unique vehicles, and Saab is now an amalgam of several brands haphazardly thrown together (Here an Opel, there a Subaru, and let's throw in a Chevy truck for good measure.).

 An ignition switch between the seats does not a Saab make, no matter the marketing. Being in a state of dependance is not where Saab belongs, and it's now another brand fated to fade into oblivion when GM implodes.

Good Old Days?

 I'd say referring to 1990 as the good old days is a little premature, but Autoblog points to an article about the effect modern technologies such as ABS, traction control, and such have had on drivers.

 One volunteer tried to drive the slalom course at what would have been a comfortable speed in his LSD-equipped Impreza and spun out. “The BMW was completely raw,” said the Impreza owner after the test. “It was impossible to keep in line. It was like driving a bus.”

 I'd comment on this, but I don't own a single vehicle with any traction control devices except my feet, hands and senses. Do people really get used to these electronic helpers, or is it just a case of being in an unfamiliar vehicle. A truer test would been to have put the volunteer drivers in the same car they are used to, but wihout the electronic wonders active.
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