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Posts Tagged ‘automobiles

When Volkswagen Beetles and other cars were the color of bathroom tile

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We took it for granted back then. Cars were the colors of bathroom tile.

Yes, in 1962 for example–and this car, seen recently, ago could be a ’62 although I’m not certain–Volkswagen Beetles were offered in black, white, and red.

But they were also turquoise green, Pacific blue, Gulf blue, and–ye gods!–Beryl green.

The phenomenon of bathroom-tile cars was not specifically a VW thing. Especially during the 1950s, plenty of American iron wore these colors: Hudson, Nash, all of the Chrysler lines, Buick, Cadillac, Ford, Chevrolet.

Pinning down the trend’s origin is a challenge I want to take up.

The minty freshness expressed something specific. Postwar optimism, I always say.

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By the early ’60s, people hadn’t exactly sobered up, but the trend shifted, a refreshing naturalism took over. My mind’s eye sees a gold Oldsmobile; a color chart for 1962 shows about half of the paint colors ending with “mist.” Sahara Mist. And there was Sand Beige.

When I was eighteen, I bought a ’53 Chevy, paying $100. The car was twenty years old, the engine exhausted, the turquoise body and white roof faded and chipped. Feeling certain the world would be able to get along with one less green Chevy, I painted the body red. With a brush.

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A look at today’s VW Beetle color palette shows the progression of taste. Moonrock silver metallic proves that the trips to the moon did in fact produce more than rocks, they produced a paint color. Think of the advances in automotive fashion if we ever get to Mars!

The 2015 Beetle is offered in eight colors: two silvers, a gray, black, white, red, Denim Blue, and for nutty people, yellow.

May the divorce between cars and bathrooms be a lasting one.

Written by baggyparagraphs

April 6, 2015 at 4:00 am

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How American heavy-duty pickups support the Dakar Rally

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Written by baggyparagraphs

January 6, 2015 at 9:34 am

Lamborghini and Harley-Davidson rank among my top automobiles and motorcycles of 2014

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As a freelance contributor to Automobile, Robb Report, BBC Autos, and JeanKnowsCars.com, I jumped in and out, and on an off, a lot of automobiles and motorcycles in 2014.

Here are some favorites:

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Lamborghini Huracán

Where: Marbella and the Ascari racing circuit, Spain; Gingerman Raceway, Michigan

When: May, October

Summary: Breathtakingly good looking, comfortable to sit in (once you collapse butt-first over the sill), great interior layout with trim that can be as tasteful or garish as you please. The car drives like a peach around town but unleashes real fury on the track.

Better than: Skydiving, a threesome in Vegas, and maybe any other Lamborghini

IMG_4083Ducati Monster 1200 S

Where: Palms to Pines Highway (twice)

When: April

Summary: The established motorcycle press seems to think the new Monster 1200 S is too big and unwieldy, but Ducati says owners had asked for more room for a passenger. Those overindulged journalistic geniuses are splitting hairs awfully thin. This bike fascinated me. There is so little chassis, for one thing. (Someone labeled the overall design “cyborg insect.”) And the 1.2-liter V-twin has immense soul.

What Molly says: “It doesn’t smell as good as a those biscuits you get me at Trader Joe’s, but I still wish I could go for a ride.”

Aston Martin V12 Vantage S IMG_5119

Where: Borrego Springs, California

When: September

Summary: The last variant of a great design. Its age admittedly shows. For example, the oval headlamp openings. Yet it’s bewitching. It makes me drool. And the very idea of such a short wheelbase and a 6.0-liter V-12 is purely outrageous. When you’re happy and you know it, close the top.

Better than: Kim Kardashian’s assets, six Mustang convertibles together

IMG_1278Honda VFR1200F DCT

Where: Isle of Man

When: June

Summary: Honda U.K. let me borrow it for a little tour of the Isle of Man and a trip over the Mountain Course. I returned it with almost no gas in the tank. Sorry, Honda, but thanks for the great time on a bike with a brilliant V-four powerplant and a dual-clutch automatic transmission that was always in the right gear.

Better than: Italian beer being on tap in public houses, the Isle’s “financial services” industry, perhaps most other motorcycles in the class

Toyota Camry IMG_4988

Where: Big Island, Hawaii

When: September

Summary: Toyota put a big effort into revising its popular midsize sedan. The new face has attitude. There are additional features inside. Nothing changes under the hood. Still, it’s such a value, and I enjoyed driving the XSE way more than expected. It’s about as good as a front-wheel-drive car can be.

Better than: Madeleine Albright twerking, whatever they post on Jalopnik

IMG_5751Chevrolet Trax

Where: San Bernardino, California

When: December

Summary: A most pleasant surprise. The turbocharged 1.4-liter engine performs great in all situations. And the cabin is quiet!

Better than: Sitting down low and being unable to see ahead

imgYamaha FZ-09

Where: North Palm Springs, California

When: December

Summary: The 847cc three-cylinder engine kicks ass. And the bike’s price of $8190 is hardly believable. Yamaha’s pushing the right buttons.

Better than: Either Yamaha I bought new.

IMG_3840Volkswagen e-Golf 

Where: Berlin

When: March

Summary: Multi-mode electric driving without the geek factor of a Leaf or Prius. And built on the same line and in sequence with other Golf models, it’s a manufacturing triumph, as well.

Better than: a-b-c-d Golfs

IMG_5292Harley-Davidson Project LiveWire

Where: Downtown Los Angeles

When: October

Summary: Think they’re sitting on some engineering talent at the Motor Company? Project LiveWire presents us with a highly refined electric motorcycle. Hey, this is only a prototype. Not only is the electric powertrain well integrated, but the design is nicely conceived (although the rearview mirrors weren’t too effective).

What I found myself saying when leaning slightly forward streetfighter-style over the straight bars and riding away from the L.A. Convention Center: “This is a Harley?”

Better than: Being locked inside a limo with Miley Cyrus

IMG_4949Mini Cooper Hardtop 4 Door

Where: Henley-on-Thames, England

When: September

Summary: What Jeep did with a four-door Wrangler, Mini Cooper is doing with its new 4 Door. It makes perfect sense to offer rear doors—a first for Mini—and add functionality for those who want to nevertheless express their individuality. It still drives great. And I like the way looks. Nice job, Mini!

Better than: A lot of Maxi cars

Indian Chief Vintage IMG_3913

Where: Long Beach, California

When: March

Summary: It almost makes me a believer in 800-pound motorcycles. The bike is stable in a crosswind, and the ride over choppy pavement is equanimous. Coming home from Long Beach at night, I had the sense that other vehicles were aware of my presence because of the bike’s size and ample lighting. It cruised ever-so-relaxed at 80 mph and 3000 rpm. All the custom flourishes charmed me, even when I was just seeing it in my garage.

Better than: Motorcycles without whitewall tires

IMG_5238BMW i8

Where: South Haven, Michigan

When: October

Summary: A turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine teaming with an electric motor to power a supersports ultraluxury car with swan-wing doors is just what the world needed, and BMW gives it to us–a rare, fine thing for $136,650.

Better than: Every car that lacks a sound symposer

Ducati Scrambler _8150121

Where: Palms to Pines Highway

When: December

Summary: As the Monster increases in size, capability, and price, Ducati seeks a new generation of buyers with the Scrambler. The Scrambler Icon, seen here, is $8495. Another $1500 gives the choice among Classic, Full Throttle, and Urban Enduro models. The gas tank’s accent panel can be individualized (red and green checks, anyone?) and a panoply of saddlebags and apparel make this bike a means of personal expression.

Better than: A whole album of fuzzed out guitar riffs, a maxi scooter, your next tattoo

IMG_2393Chevrolet Silverado

Where: In my driveway now

Why: To haul bags of mortar mix, a load of fill sand, and maybe a motorcycle

Summary:  This is the fourth General Motors pickup I’ve driven this year. Whether GMC or Chevy, heavy- or light duty, they’re so useful (and more efficient than you might think). Even though they’re a handful in the supermarket’s parking lot (backup cams are definitely a help, though) I desperately want one. What’s cool about the Silverado: LED lamp for the cargo box, integrated bumper step, EZ Lift-and-Lower tailgate that drops gradually.

Better than: Listening to a hoarse whisperer, a weekend in Woonsocket, a midsize pickup

***

What I’m eager to get my hands on in 2015:

Mazda CX-3

Yamaha FJ-09

Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe

Ducati Multistrada 1200 S

Mazda Miata

Audi A9?

***

Early contender for 2015 Automobile of the Year:

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Written by baggyparagraphs

December 31, 2014 at 1:56 pm

In second NASCAR Nationwide race, Dakoda Armstrong comes home 15th, but not unfettered, at Auto Club Speedway

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Dakoda Armstrong after the Royal Purple 300 at Auto Club Speedway.

Dakoda Armstrong after the Royal Purple 300 at Auto Club Speedway.

On March 23, 2013, making his second-ever start in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, Dakoda Armstrong finished 15th in the Royal Purple 300 at Auto Club Speedway.

Q. Fifteenth position—pretty good for your second race.

A. Yeah, I mean, we were better than that, but we were struggling on restarts there. I think we restarted ninth on that last one. Those people that had new tires behind us—you get stuck three-wide between everybody, and it’s really hard to get this thing to handle right. You get spread out. We just lost too much ground there to make up. We were hoping another caution was going to come out so we could come back in and use our last set of tires. Everyone else that took them was going to be sitting ducks. Didn’t work out that way.

Q. Overall was it fun or frustrating?

A. For a while there it was fun. I thought we were getting it, and I thought we were going to have a good finish. I’ve just got to get my restarts down and figure out what it needs on those.

Q. Your boss, Richard Childress, has to be fairly impressed.

A. Well, at least we brought it home in one piece. That’s one good thing.

Written by baggyparagraphs

March 24, 2013 at 11:33 am

Sam Hornish smokes the field, then the finish line, at Las Vegas

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How to celebrate after winning the Sam’s Town 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway?

A burnout at the finish line by Sam Hornish, who then climbs out to catch the checkered flag.

Written by baggyparagraphs

March 9, 2013 at 4:25 pm

How should I file this story about a wooden-bodied ’68 Scout postal vehicle?

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Whenever I clean out my clip files, there’s the problem of what to do with this story from the Omaha World-Herald.

I don’t have a file for wooden-bodied cars. Nor one for auto bodymen-versus-carpenters.

Maybe “Puns” would be appropriate. But I’ll hold my tongue-in-groove.

Dean Haden built the custom wooden body after his wife Marlys complained about their rusty 1968 International Scout. The former postal vehicle had been in the family ten or twelve years.

“Now Haden’s portable sundeck (with matching aerodynamics) is saluted by Weber grills and patios everywhere,” the Associated Press reported, adopting an unusually waggish tone.

“But there are worries. Like termite insurance. And you’ll note a unique vulnerability to penknives and young love.”

Maybe so. The vulnerability I see is in stopping the thing. With such a heavy body, you’d better hold brake the pedal to the floorboard.

Only a sap would push past 50 mph on the open road.

Oh well, no telling where the Redwood Runabout is now. The number I had for the Haden residence is out of service.

Maybe it’s on an errand at a nice lumberyard somewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by baggyparagraphs

March 7, 2013 at 2:23 pm

More Corvettes at the Pete: the 60th anniversary, some special cars, and other men who raced them

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The Petersen Automotive Museum hosted a gala to celebrate the Corvette’s 60th anniversary, and Kirk Bennion, exterior design manager, presented the new C7 ’Vette, making its West Coast debut. Beforehand, a panel of important figures in Corvette racing history told battle stories and signed autographs. And the museum opened an exhibit of significant examples.

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The first Corvette in 1953 excited some people with its advanced styling but disappointed others with its weak six-cylinder engine and Powerglide transmission. In any event, it was a remarkable product offering from a conservative corporation. The ’60 ‘Vette in the background is known as Big Tank.

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“The American kid was out there racing that car,” Dick Guldstrand said. “You had to take your lunch money and do it yourself.” He drove his own ’56 Corvette to the track at Santa Barbara, taped off the headlights, stuck in a roll hoop, qualified for the race and won it.

Doug Hooper, left, remembered the early bias against Corvettes. “That was not the true sports car,” he recalled people saying. Only European makes qualified as such. “Thank God for [Zora Arkus-] Duntov. If it weren’t for him, there would’ve been no Corvette.” The engineer kept introducing new parts and features each year. “He kept it alive.”

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