Did Dr. No’s Engineers Provide the Design Inspiration for the Tesla Pickup?

Born in Crab Key: the slab-sided, low-polygon, stainless steel-colored Dragon Tank of Dr. No., 1962.

Whenever I hear the term dated, I release the safety on my Browning.

James Kraus

Essayist and art critic Clement Greenberg. Arnold Newman photo, 1972.

… Datedness is not a valid aesthetic judgment. It doesn’t say whether art is good or bad. Dated art can be as good as up-to-date art. – Clement Greenberg

Over the last several years, the term “dated” has been tossed around ad nauseam by hacks, buffoons, and others who wish to appear hip and knowledgeable, but in reality have trouble discerning their backsides from deep depressions in the earth. Continue reading

The Germans Aren’t Just Cutting Corners On Emissions…

James Kraus

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U.S.-spec 718 Boxster. Is the driver braking? Turning? Who knows? Who cares? Porsche doesn’t; but you should.

Everywhere outside of North America, rear turn indicators are required to be amber in colour. This is due to extensive research going back decades demonstrating amber conclusively outperforming red in terms of recognition time. The latest studies by the NHTSA in 2008 and 2009 show a significant reduction in collisions when vehicles are equipped with amber rear indicators (assuming of course that drivers actually use them.)   Continue reading

New Crop of “Luxury” SUVs Miss the Mark

James Kraus

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Bentley Bentayga

The staff ensconced here atop Auto Universum Tower has no love for SUVs; they are clunky, ill-proportioned and have to be climbed into. Once ensconced, one’s melon is tossed left and right, forward and back like a bobblehead doll due to the vertiginous seating position. When parked, they block pedestrian sightlines, turning sidewalks into tunnels. Nevertheless, when we gaze down upon the busy streets far below, they seem quite common now, and have recently been cause for mirth here at the office.  Continue reading

The People’s Car. Then and Now.

James Kraus

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Wolfsburg Crest, 1962 Volkswagen

On Sunday, the Auto Universum Board of Governors attended the Greystone Mansion Concours d’Elegance in Beverly Hills. This grand affair entailed a $120 admittance fee and boasted a splendid field including a Ferrari 250 SWB, a pair of 300 SLs, a Porsche 356 America Roadster, Alfa 6C 2500, Bugatti Type 57, 1930 V16 Cadillac and many other pedigreed swells.   Continue reading

The 1960s: Halcyon Days For Hommes d’un Certain Âge

James Kraus

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1965 Mercury Monterey with a trio of distinguished gentlemen and their consorts

According to a recent report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor, 51% of consumer spending is now done by people over 50, yet this group is the target for a mere 10% of marketing activity; this according to Bob Hoffman of the always entertaining Ad Contrarian blog. Bob further points out that millennials, who buy barely 12% of new cars, are featured in about 99.9% of new car advertising, even though consumers over 50 are the ones that have all the money.   Continue reading

How the Damper Became a Shock Absorber

by James Kraus

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Koni adjustable damper at the front of a Porsche 356C

One of the disparities in the automotive lexicon is the term bestowed upon the damper/shock absorber. In Germany and the majority of the English speaking world, it’s a damper. In the U.S., France, Italy and Spain, it’s a shock absorber. Deciding which is the more correct designation depends to a large degree on the era under discussion.  Continue reading

The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit: Don Draper’s 1962 Cadillac

by James Kraus

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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. Continue reading

The Dark Black Secret: Your Neighbor’s New Plug-In Electric Car is Coal-Fired

by James Kraus

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.

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