Archive for the 'automobilia' Category

US of A


Bob Lutz, GM’s vice chairman and the head of the company’s global product development team, said the proposed changes to the government’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards would represent an unfair burden on the traditional Big Three automakers.

He added: “That effectively hands the truck and SUV market over to the imports, particularly the Japanese, who have earned years of accumulated credits from their fleets of formerly very small cars.”

Lutz, a long-time critic of government fuel economy regulations, compared the attempt to force carmakers to sell smaller vehicles to “fighting the nation’s obesity problem by forcing clothing manufacturers to sell garments only in small sizes.” [emphasis added]

Dear Mr. Lutz:

I want to thank you, first of all, for helping to raise public awareness of an issue which has been—literally—a pain in my butt for quite some time.

I went for a ride in a Japanese car today. It was a Honda, actually. And it’s tantalizingly cheap. Its owner loves how it gets close to thirty miles per gallon, and how cheap it was to buy. But he looks the other way when I try to get in and out, and I, having been reared with good manners, am too polite to complain.

It’s awful. The car is just too damn small! I start by opening the door. Even that’s hard. With that dinky little handle, it’s damn near impossible for a fellow to fit more than a finger through it. Pulling a door open with one finger is just asking for a sprain. But the real pain is yet to come.

Once the door’s open, I turn sideways to it. I’ve learned through hard, hard experience that there’s no way both cheeks are going in at once. No. Getting them in takes careful planning and true grit.

The first buttock is easy—a good fit for the half-assed door. Next comes a turn. We’re crack-to-doorjamb now, and starting to get a little sweaty, but the worst awaits.

Bringing in the second buttock requires ducking the head. Ducking the head means leaning forward and squashing the gut. And that head also has to skootch forward and collide with the door pillar if that buttock is going to have any room at all. When it slides in at last, it’s a straining, bruising affair.

I’ve learned not to suffer in silence. We can endure anything in this country, but that doesn’t mean we need to be quiet about it. Singing helps me. Not only does it give me a rhythm to time my pushes, it also restores some of the patriotism I sacrifice when I climb into one of these little crap-cans.

“A-MERRRica, A-MERRRica, God SHED his GRACE on THEE.” A couple of verses like this and I’m usually through. “And CROWN thy GOOD with BROther HOOD from SEA to SHIN—ah that’s it.”

As Arab terrorists continue to threaten our freedom and extort us with their oil prices, we can only expect more of these indignities. Nobody likes this kind of suffering, but the Japanese know they have us over a barrel (literally!) and, painful as it is, we can’t afford not to buy their cruelly-undersized cars.

I applaud you for your statement. Never in a million years would the government try to make us thinner by forcing us to buy smaller clothes, and they shouldn’t force smaller cars on us either. We Americans are the greatest race ever to walk the earth, and great as we are in size, we are even greater in our accomplishments. It takes big cars—and big clothes—to hold all that.

Any sensible regulator can see that reducing CAFE standards would not only fail, it would violate our human rights. Let’s instead focus on LATTE: Letting Americans Triumph over Terrorist Efficiency-mavens. God bless you, and may God continue to bless America and the greatness of her people.

explosive trafficking

A man can stand up. A man can fight. A man can throw off the ties that bind. A man can liberate himself from the oppression that grips his society.

A man can blow up a traffic camera.

Too long have we labored under the authoritarian gaze of our government. Too long have we paid our tolls and stopped at stoplights in fear of the silent menace watching us from above. This is autocracy. Our license plates catalogue us like internment-camp tattoos; the post office catches us surer than the police.

Show a little admiration for the man who rattles at the bars of our cage. Show a little reverence for the gall, for the cunning, for the skill it takes to turn your van around, pull over, rig explosives, and shower the oppressing machine into the night sky.

Britain leads the world in video surveillance, but who can doubt America will follow? Our roads grow more congested, our country shrinks a little every day. Let us take a lesson from this. Let us find within ourselves the courage to explode, to detonate our anger in the cause of freedom, to save ourselves before it is too late. Let us break the bonds of tyrrany with pyrotechnic rage.

works for me

“I’ll have half a number 4 with everything on it, and— an iced tea from the cooler.”

“Is that it?”

“Yep that’s it.”

“Seven seventy-six.” Heavens

“Here, I’ve got…” Oh sweet jesus give her some coins or she’ll give you half a ton of change “There.” [$20.01]

“And— twelve twenty-five.” Ha


“Wait— Did you want The Works on that?”

“Uh, yes—uh, yeah, all the, uh, everything.” Right

Crucial Plot Point Number One: I am ordering a sandwich.

Crucial Plot Point Number Two: The girl behind the counter hates men. I suspect this because she drives a V-8 Blazer with 36-inch tires and a bumper sticker that says “Bitch.” It almost scrapes the roof of the bank drive-thru, which I know because I once saw her drive it thru. Ironically, its height would force her to lean well out of the driver’s window to reach the deposit drawer, potentially (if she were wearing the shirt she wore to serve me) compromising her cleavage, which, if the drive-thru teller were male, might jeapordize the standoffish four-wheel-drive-bitch image her vehicle seeks to project.

Crucial Plot Point Number Three: Crucial Plot Point Number Two isn’t actually crucial. Also, the last sentence is speculative.

Crucial Plot Point Number Four: For some reason I don’t understand, when you order a sandwich at this place, you can order it with just the vegetables and condiments you want—e.g. lettuce, tomato, mayo, pepper—OR you can order it with “Everything.” “Everything,” however, does not mean vegetables AND condiments; it means only vegetables. If you want all the condiments—and there are too many and it’s too complicated and you’re in a hurry because there are thirtynine tourists with a trillion touristchildren standing behind you screaming and you just don’t want to think—you must also order your sandwich with “The Works.”

Crucial Plot Point Number Five: “Everything,” therefore, doesn’t really mean “everything.” It means “everything that is a sandwich vegetable,” or “everything you can put on a sandwich without shaking, grinding, dribbling, or squirting.” I think—I think—there are serious philosophical problems with this nomenclature. (Conversely, if you ordered a sandwich with “nothing” on it, you would still get the basic sandwich with meat and cheese, which, in fact, is “something”; in fact, I don’t think it’s POSSIBLE to have a sandwich with nothing on it because a sandwich has to sandwich something or else it isn’t really a sandwich is it? Right? You see the problem. Or perhaps that was a digression)


Crucial Plot Point Number Seven This makes me ANGRY. I do not know why. Once upon a time they just had “everything,” and then asked you if you wanted mayo mustard oil vinegar salt and pepper, but they just got lazy. That’s what it is: Lazy.

Crucial Plot Point Number Eight: They just don’t care. They should care. A sandwich shop is no place to fuck with metaphysics. People are hungry. People want sandwiches. They don’t want the philosophical underpinnings of their food-requesting language getting dildoed around by lazy people who’d rather take out the bank window than shed the knobs from their tires.

Crucial Plot Point Number Nine: I think this is the end of this post and there really isn’t any point to it other than to demonstrate an incongruity and sexually objectify a perfectly innocent woman and her wheels. Caveat essor.

a sense of hummer

My heart flooded with optimism at the sight of its gleaming blue-gray flanks—the color of the early morning sky over the Rockies. The word “Independence,” emblazoned on the passenger-side door, glinted even in the dim afternoon. The mass of it overwhelmed me; its ingenuity awed me. These rhino bars, this trailer hitch, those massive wheels rolling impassively over the pavement—surely here stood the glittering epitome of America’s technological success; surely this was the worthy capstone of the past century’s automotive progress.

And how could this vehicle—which neither mountain crags, nor gulches, nor barren dunes can constrain—how could it allow itself to be bullied by bureaucrats, planners, construction workers, and parking enforcement officers who saw fit to delineate the frontier—to pave it and draw lines on it, and thereby circumscribe that freedom that our forefathers fought so hard to protect—the freedom that this very vehicle celebrates? The answer is: It could not. It did not. In parking it—in posing it on the street corner to impress the world—she placed it in not one parking space, but two.

She! That icon of womanhood! That princess of automotive freedom! When she immerged from her metal steed, it became clear to me that she represented not the dowdy, downtrodden driveresses that populate our tattered byways, but some higher ideal—some butter-haired icon of driverly beauty—some all-American vision of the freedom of the roads!

Imagine my surprise at her entrance to my humble place of business. Imagine the joy I felt at upon realizing that hers was no paltry natural beauty, no improbable exception of age and physique, but a shrine to the triumph of science! Her hair golden long past its natural ability; her skin suntanned and smoothed in no way even nature could devise; her figure girlish years—decades—beyond any deservance on her own part to be called so: I marveled at these, even blessed myself that I should live in an age, in a nation, where such miracles transpire.

That the first words to flit from her lips should ask, “Do you buy old frames?” transported my delight to ecstasy. Here, embodied before me, stood the American Spirit in toto. Not content in her evident riches—not content in her mighty wheels and meticulous bod—she yet felt within her the American yearning to achieve wealth—nay, glory!—to market, to barter, to dicker, yea—to vend!

“My family used to own an antique shop,” quoth she—but how she spoke! With a disinterested nasality that murmured a frustration with the present, suserrated a desire to run free, to seek the future, whatever be its forms. So overcome was I, nary a word could I speak, not even in the interest of the frames, for verily they seemed hideous.

My eye watched her with patriotic zeal
As she walked out and climbed behind the wheel;
And I looked on from stodgy world of art
As she and Hummer boldy did depart!

T is for totally awesome

One of the perks of being a carpenter is that you make friends with lots of grateful people who have interesting toys.

I am not a carpenter. My friend (Zack)'s dad (Alan) is, however. And he has interesting clients. For example:

Last night I got a phone call. Zack said that one of Alan's customers had, in honor of Alan's fifty-somethingth birthday, lent Alan his 1923 Model-T Ford convertible. Did I want a ride? Yes I did.

So this morning, my parents and I stopped by and climbed into an unrestored Model-T roadster. If you know about Model-Ts, you may remember that they start with a crank. This one, however, has an aftermarket electric starter. To operate, simply flip the toggle switch on the dashboard (causing a loud buzzing somewhere beneath you), advance the spark, and depress the floor-mounted starter switch until engine fires up. Then adjust the throttle, engage gear, and begin steering.

"Engage gear" is a deceptive phrase though. Like any manual-transmission car, the Model-T has three pedals beneath the steering wheel. You would think that, from left to right, these are the 1.) clutch, 2.) brake, and 3.) accelerator. You would be wrong.

In fact, the Model-T predates any standardized arrangement of automobile controls. From left to right, the pedals are actually 1.) gear selector (down=low, halfway=neutral, up=high), 2.) reverse, and 3.) brake. Where's the accelerator? It's a lever on the right-hand side of the steering column, slightly above the horn—where you'd expect to find the windshield wipers on a Volvo, or the gear-shift on most American cars.

Make sense? Right. We started off by riding a slow circuit around the cemetery next to Zack's house—Alan driving. It occured to me that we were probably driving OVER people who knew much more about the car than we did, but it did not feel macabre: the day was brilliant and the cemetery leafy.

On to the road. In first gear, the Model-T sounds like a tractor: the engine blusters and the drivetrain makes yawning noises. (In fact, they were so rugged that, when they went out of fashion, people actually used them as tractors.) Second (high) gear is a different story. The ratio gap is so great that, when the car is spooled up like a biplane in low gear, shifting to high reduces engine speed to an idle. Hills require downshifts. All hills.

We idled through the little two-store, two-church village near Zack's house, then drove out a narrow road along the shore. Since it's right on the water, the sides of the road have sprouted trophy homes the way a basement sprouts fungus; we ogled them from a car older than the road itself.

It's certainly the best way to see the coast. You sit higher up than you do in most SUVs; the seats feel surprisingly comfortable; and you have an unobstructed view on all sides: even the windshield opens. If you don't mind the vibration and the noise and the smoke coming out of the dashboard—and you don't—it's the best ride you've ever had. A neighbor even handed us a loaf of her banana bread as we rolled by.

Something happened between 1923 and whenever I started to be aware of cars. I've always loved them, but I've never thought of automobiles as anything but necessary tools—rolling appliances—that can occasionally double as toys. To ride through a familiar place in a car like the Model-T is a revelation: here, for a change, is a car that is not ashamed of itself—a car that does not hide its noise and smoke, or the bumps over which it rattles, or the air through which it moves. Here is a car that takes pride from being a car, not a car that apologizes for it—sorry!—muffles and dampens its car-ness, and masquerades as a leather lounge suite with SurroundSound.

It is a car—the very car, in fact—that made ordinary people first want cars—before they had cars, that is—before they realized they needed cars to do all those other important things. A car made before cars themselves, in the face of all those other important things, quietly took a back seat.