Don slides behind the wheel of a Newport Blue Coupe de Ville with Olympic White roof and blue Chelsea Cloth interior. He purchases it days later.
The other day I was discussing season two of the television drama Mad Men with a friend and not surprisingly, talk soon turned to Don’s new Cadillac. Prototypical of what a successful New York executive would have purchased in the 1960’s, it was quiet, smooth and comfortable; equipped with a full measure of the latest developments in convenience features and driving aids.
Did Don care about how much power it had? How fast it was? No; these were more the concerns of men further down the totem pole. They amused themselves with lower-cost, larger-engined Fords, Chevrolets and Plymouths. All of which could easily out-power Don’s posh new Cadillac. No matter; Don had no need for mere demonstrations of power; he possessed power.
Coal-burning power station, Gelsenkirchen, Germany
The new plug-in vehicles, such as the Mini E, Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf are being touted by many as emission-free (or nearly so in the case of the Chevrolet.) In fact, these new high-tech wonder cars are to a large extent coal-powered. In the United States, by far the largest share of power generation is provided by coal-burning powerplants at approximately 50%, its closest rivals being nuclear and natural gas at a roughly 20% share each. In Europe, coal and natural gas are the largest sources of power, each having about a 30% share.
Jean-Claude Andruet and Michèle “Biche” Espinosi-Petit on their way to overall victory at the 1982 Tour de France in a Ferrari 308 GTB
Why do Ferrari’s V8’s sound so delicious, almost as enticing and melodious as a V12? It comes from the use of a single-plane “flat” crankshaft in lieu of the typical cross-plane (two-plane) crankshaft. Workaday V8 engines utilize the cross-plane crank to optimize mechanical smoothness; an admittedly important consideration when transporting a hedge fund manager and his mistress to a performance of Die Walküre at the Théâtre de Genève in a 750i, or a load of sensitive electronic test equipment behind a MAN TGX in route to the CERN Large Hadron Collider.
When Volkswagens were unique. This VW 1500, introduced in September of 1966, is one of the most coveted among collectors with its unique blend of big motor and disc brakes combined with the final appearance of the Beetle’s original svelte bumpers and sloping headlamps.
Bloomberg has picked up a story line that Auto Universum explored back in May 2009. The issue is the risks that lurk behind the continuing brand proliferation and commodification at Volkswagen. Apparently people are getting wise to the fact that many of the overlapping Skoda, SEAT, VW and Audi models are distressingly similar under the skin. This phenomenon is worsening as time goes on and even affects VW’s higher-line models.
If you buy a new Audi TT, your car is riding on a platform shared with the Škoda Yeti and powered by a generic VW Group engine. If your wallet allows you to buy a new Lamborghini Gallardo, you end up with a very nice VW Group 5.2 litre V10 purring away out back, but the same motor is also found (with a different crankshaft, sump and tuning) under the hood of the Audi S6 Sedan, a car that sells for a third of the price of the Lamborghini.
Ominous, malevolent and sinister front ends of the 1950′s. Source: Design Quarterly
Automobiles have become more and more aggressive looking of late. A number of them, with their snarling grilles and squinting headlamps, have in fact crossed the line to surly and repulsive, displaying an unpleasantness last seen in the 1950’s.
This may have something to do with the fact that most of the world’s automobile manufacturers established design studios in Southern California some years ago.
Wine aficionados frequently discuss the effects of terroir on their favourite cuvées. The concept of terroir is that the local environment in which the vines grow (weather, soil, etc.) significantly affects the final product. In the same vein, could it not be that the local environment (architecture, clothing styles, attitudes, etc.) affects designers and their output?
Saab could find a ready market today by becoming what German cars used to be. The upscale German cars of today are more like the American cars of yore rather than the German cars of just a few decades ago. Too often overly styled, overweight and overwrought, they are in many ways the polar opposite of the handsome, understated and functional German machinery of days past.
I am somewhat amused by the vast rumblings of discontent over the Bahrain GP. Everyone is complaining about the lack of passing. My first thought was that many of the voices complaining most voraciously about seeing only a few passing manoeuvers will happily spend a hour and a half watching a football (soccer) match in which only one or two goals are scored.
Viewing a pass on the racetrack is really not all that exciting in and of itself (unless you have a wager on!) It is how the pass is executed that can make it exciting for the fans.
There are two major problems with today’s F1 cars from a spectator standpoint: too much tire and too much downforce. The result is a car with a very small window between in control and out of control. That is why, when a driver makes the tiniest error he as often as not ends up completely off the track.
There is a distinct lack of coloration in today’s automobiles, with the majority seemingly finished in a shade that could be found on a greyscale chart. Things are no better in the interior; nearly always black, beige or grey, colours that architectural and couture designers refer to as neutrals. To make matters worse, these shades are all too often matched to the exterior pigment (i.e. black with black, silver with grey) to create insidious and mind-numbing monochrome vehicles that appear to have simply been dipped whole into a large vat of colourant.
The data on full-year 2008 automobile sales of all types in the United States has reached my compound. The reader may be surprised that for the first time, the largest selling car was not the perennially popular mid-size Honda Accord (373,000) or Toyota Camry (437,000) but a genuinely efficient, small, lightweight and inexpensive runabout.
While members of the Porsche and Piech families gather today in Salzburg to confront the reality of the €9 Billion of debt they have assumed in taking control of Volkswagen, search for Arab investors to ride to their rescue and decide how to integrate the two companies, there is another long-term issue within the VW-Porsche empire.
While Toyota concentrate their efforts and resources developing and marketing three major automotive brands (Toyota, Lexus and Scion); Volkswagen-Porsche is currently host to no less than eight (Skoda, VW, SEAT, Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini, Bentley and Bugatti.) What no one seems to notice is that VW is following the classic GM playbook to the letter, only with even more brands. This strategy worked well for GM…until it didn’t.