Category Archive 'Automobiles'
15 Jul 2019

At Goodwood Festival of Speed: 1927 Bugatti Type 35B

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A Type 35B won the 1929 race at Le Mans. Wikipedia.

29 May 2019

Why New Cars Cost Too Much and Suck

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1939 Lincoln Zephyr front end.

Jeffrey Tucker explains that, after Big Government got done ruining the gas can, it went after automobile design.

Your car looks like a box. So does every other car. It’s boring, even shocking when you consider how awesome cars used to look. What’s gone wrong? And to what extent has the design mess contributed to the decline of American auto manufacturing?

A recent letter to the Wall Street Journal comes close but misses the point. “Blame the Death of Design for U.S. Autos’ Decline” reads his headline. Speaking of Cadillacs and their declining sales, he writes: “The 1957 coupe looked like nothing else on wheels then, and it’s still stunning six decades later. The [new] XT6 and boxes of different sizes, identified with variations of letters and numbers, are the problem. A distinctive, prestigious and beautiful vehicle is the solution.”

This seems right. You drive around today and can barely distinguish one wheeled box from another. We look through websites at concept cars and wonder why they never seem to exist. And whatever happened to the Golden Age of design?

The problem with the letter is that it only scratches the surface. The real problem is more fundamental. Designers did not somehow lose imagination over the last 25 years. The designs of new cars are boring because regulations forced this result. …

[I]’s not a choice. No manufacturer can make a car like this anymore. Step back from the situation and think about it. In the 1930s, phones were awful, and you were lucky to have one at all. No one today would give up a smartphone for one of those old things. Same with shoes, computers, televisions, ovens, and so much more. No one wants to go back.
We Want Old!

With cars, it’s a different matter. Our sense of nostalgia is growing, not receding. But we don’t even have the choice to go back. There will be no more pretty cars made and sold in the United States. The government and its tens of thousands of micromanaging regulations on motor vehicles will not allow it. …

It hasn’t happened all at once. It’s been a bit at a time, taking place over four decades in the name of safety and the environment. The whole thing began in 1966 with creation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, followed by the Environmental Protection Agency and dozens of others. Every regulator wanted a piece of the car.

Each new regulation seems like it makes sense in some way. Who doesn’t want to be safer and who doesn’t want to save gas?

But these mandates are imposed without any real sense of the cost and benefits, and they come about without a thought as to what they do to the design of a car. And once the regs appear on the books, they never go away. They are stickier than code on a patented piece of software.
The Rise of the Boxes

As the years marched on, the homogenization process rolled forward, with each generation of cars looking ever more like each other. You can even trace the problem by looking through the history of the Mazda Miata: this slick two-seater roaster eventually became a shrunken version of all the other cars on the road: swollen nose, rear, and beltline.

Try as they might, manufacturers have a terrible time distinguishing their cars from each other’s. Car homogenization has become something of an Internet meme. It turns out that all new cars more or less look alike. I had begun to notice this over the years and I thought I was just imagining things. But people playing with Photoshop have found that you can mix and match car grills and make a BMW look just like a Kia and a Hyundai look just like a Honda. It’s all one car.

Truly, this cries out for explanation. So I was happy to see a video made by CNET that gives five reasons: mandates for big fronts to protect pedestrians, mandates that require low tops for fuel economy, a big rear to balance out the big fronts, tiny windows resulting from safety regulations that end up actually making the car less safe, and high belt lines due to the other regs. In other words, single-minded concern for testable “safety” and the environment has wrecked the entire car aesthetic.

And that’s only the beginning. Car and Driver puts this as plainly as can be: “In our hyperregulated modern world, the government dictates nearly every aspect of car design, from the size and color of the exterior lighting elements to how sharp the creases stamped into sheetmetal can be.”

You are welcome to read an engineer’s account of what it is like to design an American car. Nothing you think, much less dream, really matters. The regulations drive the whole process. He explains that the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards with hundreds of regulations — really a massive central plan — dictate every detail and have utterly ruined the look and feel of American cars.

RTWT

In Washington, there are very big buildings with tens of thousands of employees sitting around all day with nothing to do but write new regulations. And there are lobbyists for auto companies offering suggested regs, intentionally designed to build deep moats around their businesses and to nobble the competition. Then come the insurance company bean-counters, determined to reduce their companies’ liabilities at any cost to your convenience or choice. You may get killed by defective air bag, but the statistics show that overall they save insurance companies money. And, after them, come the crazies and crackpots determined to save the trees and polar bears by taking away the internal combustion engine, one nut or bolt at a time.

08 May 2019

Save Our Freedom to Drive!

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Prices will be going on on pre-emissions Beetles and people will be reprinting the old John Muir Fix-That-VW-Yourself Guide.

Our Corporate Overlords are rapidly developing driverless cars, and advanced thinkers are already talking about banning driving a car yourself altogether.

The New Yorker recently reported that a new group has been created specifically to defend the Freedom to Drive.

Safety has long been a central argument for the adoption of driverless cars. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, ninety-four per cent of serious crashes are due to human error, and some thirty-five thousand Americans die in traffic-related accidents each year. Autonomous-vehicle makers claim that, by seeing more and responding faster than human drivers can, their cars will save thousands of lives. According to this logic, not adopting autonomous-vehicle technology would be irresponsible—even unethical. “People may outlaw driving cars because it’s too dangerous,” Elon Musk said, at a technology conference, in 2015. (“To be clear, Tesla is strongly in favor of people being allowed to drive their cars and always will be,” he elaborated later, on Twitter. “Hopefully, that is obvious. However, when self-driving cars become safer than human-driven cars, the public may outlaw the latter. Hopefully not.”)

Perhaps it was inevitable that a nascent right-to-drive movement would spring up in America, where—as fervent gun-rights advocates and anti-vaccinators have shown—we seem intent on preserving freedom of choice even if it kills us. “People outside the United States look at it with bewilderment,” Toby Walsh, an Australian artificial-intelligence researcher, told me. In his book “Machines That Think: The Future of Artificial Intelligence,” from 2018, Walsh predicts that, by 2050, autonomous vehicles will be so safe that we won’t be allowed to drive our own cars. Unlike Roy, he believes that we will neither notice nor care. In Walsh’s view, a constitutional amendment protecting the right to drive would be as misguided as the Second Amendment. “We will look back on this time in fifty years and think it was the Wild West,” he went on. “The only challenge is, how do we get to zero road deaths? We’re only going to get there by removing the human.”

[Meredith] Broussard [a former software developer who is now a professor of data journalism at New York University, and author of the recent book, “Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World”] has a term for the insistence that computers can do everything better than humans can: technochauvinism. “Most of the autonomous-vehicle manufacturers are technochauvinists,” she said. “The big spike in distracted-driving traffic accidents and fatalities in the past several years has been from people texting and driving. The argument that the cars themselves are the problem is not really looking at the correct issue. We would be substantially safer if we put cell-phone-jamming devices in cars. And we already have that technology.” Like Roy, she strongly disputes both the imminence and the safety of driverless technology. “There comes a point at which you have to divorce fantasy from reality, and the reality is that autonomous vehicles are two-ton killing machines. They do not work as well as advocates would have you believe.”

Rather than create a constitutional amendment, Broussard argues that drivers should resist laws that would take away their existing rights. Although steering wheels are legally mandatory, the SELF DRIVE Act, which passed the House in 2017, would allow autonomous-vehicle companies to request exemptions from tens of thousands of other regulations. (The Act died in the Senate, but driverless-car companies are urging Congress to take it up again this year.) According to Broussard, the best way to protect the right to drive may be simply to defeat laws that would legalize autonomous vehicles. “We can challenge the notion that autonomous vehicles are inevitable,” she said. “They are not even legal right now.”

RTWT

Those driverless cars will all be equipped with Internet connections telling the companies that built them and the government exactly where you are and allowing either to disable your vehicle at will. You will need Big Brother’s permission to go anywhere.

Automobiles are already far too loaded with safety features; stripped of conveniences like spare tires, dip sticks, and vent windows; and calculatingly contrived to deny their owners the ability to make repairs themselves.

Our freedom of choice has been incrementally removed year by year. Next they will taking away our Freedom to Drive altogether.

Join the HDA:

18 Mar 2019

Peugot 402 Darl’mat Coupe 1936

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Wikipedia:

Émile Darl’mat (1892–1970) was the creator and owner of a Peugeot distributor with a car body business established at the rue de l’Université in Paris in 1923. In the 1930s the firm gained prominence as a low volume manufacturer of Peugeot-based sports cars. Business was interrupted by the Second World War, but at least one prototype was kept hidden throughout the period and directly after the war Darl’mat returned to the construction of special bodied Peugeots, although in the impoverished condition of post-war France business never returned to the volumes achieved during the 1930s.

The best remembered of the Darl’mats is a sports car based on the Peugeot 302: the engine was taken from the 402. Several Peugeot-Darl’mat 402 “spécial sport” models raced at Le Mans with success in 1937 and 1938. The cars were built in very limited numbers and three models – a roadster, a coupe, and a drop-head coupe – were offered.

11 Dec 2018

Bring Back Motorcycle Fenders!

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“Aerodynamics are for people who can’t build engines.”

-– Enzo Ferrari

29 Nov 2018

So Much For the Great GM Bailout

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Kevin D. Williamson points out that saving GM cost a lot and did not actually work.

General Motors just shared some very bad news: It is closing five factories in the United States and Canada, eliminating 15 percent of its work force (and 25 percent of its executives), and getting out of the passenger-car business almost entirely to focus on SUVs and trucks. President Donald Trump threw a fit, but GM shrugged him off. The facts are the facts.

What did U.S. taxpayers get for their $11.2 billion bailout of GM? About ten years of business-as-usual, and one very expensive lesson.

Bailouts don’t work.

Never mind the moral hazard, the rent-seeking, the cronyism and the favoritism, and all of the inevitable corruption that inevitably accompanies multibillion-dollar sweetheart deals between Big Business and Big Government. Set aside the ethical questions entirely and focus on the mechanics: Businesses such as GM get into trouble not because of one-time events in the wider economic environment, but because they are so weak as businesses that they cannot weather one-time events in the wider economic environment. GM’s sedan business is weak because GM’s sedans are weak: Virtually all of the best-selling sedans in the United States are made by Toyota, Honda, and Nissan. The lower and middle sections of the market are dominated by Asia, and the high end of the market by Europe: Mercedes, Audi, BMW. GM can’t compete with the Honda Civic at its price point or with the Audi A7 at its price point. Consumers like what they like, and they aren’t buying what GM is selling.

RTWT

03 May 2018

No Dodge Viper For You!

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Some nameless federal bureaucrat in the Department of Transportation decided that if one air bag was a good idea, adding four to six (depending on available surfaces) was even better, and, hey! why not mandate two more curtain airbags, regardless as to the possibility of fitting them in certain existing models, like the Dodge Viper.

Eric Peters mourns the Viper.

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard # 226 — yes, there are at least 225 othersaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaferty standards to be complied with.

FMVSS #226 decrees side curtain air bags for every new car. This in addition to the plethora of air bags already stuffed into almost every conceivable surface/corner of every new car — which has at least four of them and usually six. Now, two more — big ones — mounted in the headliner on either side of the roof, to drop down like a curtain in the event of a wreck — ostensibly to prevent the ejection of the passengers through the (broken) side glass and to protect them from impact intrusion through where the door glass was, prior to impact.

That, in brief is the mandate of FMVSS #226.

The problem — for the Viper — is that there’s no room to spare for the installation of curtain air bags. Putting them in the already low-slung roof would make the car undriveable except by dwarves, due to the loss of headroom for the sake of air bag room.

And that is why the Viper is no longer with us — 2017 was its final year — political incorrectness notwithstanding.

It would have been necessary to redesign the car to accommodate the curtain air bags — which gets into money and Fiat (which owns Dodge as well as Chrysler and Jeep and Ram trucks) apparently couldn’t justify the expense it would have taken to make it so — just for the sake of complying with FMVSS #226.

Keep in mind, buyers didn’t demand curtain air bags. If they had demanded them, it would have made sense for Dodge to make them available as buyers would have been willing to pay for them.

But the obvious fact is that buyers do not want to pay for them — else it wouldn’t have been necessary to mandate them. This obviousness is lost on the mandate-issuers, who insist that buyers pine for all these saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety “features” which for some inexplicable reason most buyers would never buy, if they had the choice not to.

It’s not just the money, either.

Stuffing curtain air bags into the Viper’s roof probably would have mucked up the car’s lines — and that’s no small thing when dealing with supercars, which sell on their looks as much as how fast they go. People forget that it was also federal saaaaaaaaaafety standards which helped ruin the looks of the American muscle car back in the early ’70s — when Uncle decreed the first bumper-impact standards.

The gorgeous lines of cars like the 1970 Camaro Rally Sport — with its delicate and almost entirely for looks-only bumperettes off to the left and right of an open grill — were marred by 1974 by ugly (and heavy) “5 MPH” bumpers plastered across the face it and every new car.

Sales plummeted. So badly that GM almost canceled the Camaro (and its sister, the Pontiac Firebird).

People — the mandate-issuers — will say the bumper-festooned cars were saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafer and of course, that’s absolutely true.

So what?

The people buying the cars didn’t demand the ugly/heavy “federal” bumpers and so there was no natural reason to install them. Mandates countermand natural choice. Your freedom to pick what you prefer is suborned and supplanted by the preferences of people you’ve never heard of and who are certainly not your guardians at litum.

I never actually coveted the Dodge Viper. But when Big Brother decides I can’t have one, Dodge Vipers start looking awfully good to me.

Just think, there was a time, long ago, when both Britain and America were free countries and a fellow could drop by, for instance, Morris Garages (MG) in Oxford, England, and order himself a new car, choosing himself its engine, body style, color, and features. In those days, a car would start at way under $1000.

Today, a normal car costs $40-50,000 and has some costly new federally-mandated something on it or in it, added by those-who-know-what’s-best-for-us.

Personally, when I found my last BMW had no spare, but instead lousy, expensive, noisy, bad traction, run-flat tires, I swore I’d bought my last new car.

My new philosophy is old, pre-at least-some-mandates, cheap, and fix-the-thing-up.

25 Mar 2018

The Driverless Car Killed Its First Human This Week

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“When you are asleep at the wheel you never see the junkie with the bicycle sliding into the road.”Vanderleun.

The automobile is both a prime symbol of, and the practical tool that makes possible, the freedom of the individual American. Jump in your car and just drive and you can put behind you all the bonds and troubles and obligations of ordinary human life. Get in your car, and you can be a thousand miles away, experiencing a completely different region and landscape, enjoying a completely different climate. The old mill closes down, and you’re thrown out of work? Hop in the car and drive off to somewhere that the jobs are.

But, of course, this experience of freedom and empowerment is only for rural and suburban Americans and the rich. People living in cities usually cannot keep cars. Parking is expensive and just plain unavailable in most parts of town. A car in the city is only an expensive nuisance and a hostage to fate. Take your eye off it, and somebody will rob the battery, the air bags, and the radio, possibly also your tires. Park in the wrong place, and the city will tow you, introducing you to a genuine, real-life Circle of Hell experience.

No wonder city-types so bitterly resent the automobile and the freedom others have that they don’t, and that undoubtedly has a lot to do with the ideology of junk science targeting the internal combustion engine so maliciously.

If you can’t simply ban the automobile altogether, forcing everyone (everyone not rich or part of the Nomenklatura, that is) to queue up, identity papers ready and at hand, to ride jammed together like sardines, breathing each other’s breath, smelling each other’s body odors, on public transportation, the grand egalitarian experience, then, the next best thing has got to be the self-driving car.

If Jones’s papers are not in order, if his fees and taxes aren’t paid, if his internal passport doesn’t give him permission to visit Peoria, well! Alexa will simply decline to carry him. If Jones is wanted for questioning or a new course in the proper language of Diversity, Alexa will fetch him directly to the police station with no nonsense about choice of destination.

It is only too easy to understand why the Left absolutely loves the idea of the driverless car. Personally, I think, for many of us, it will come down to actual armed resistance before we give up control of the wheel ourselves.

———————

Spengler despises the crude scientism of it all, and he thinks we ought to be getting the torches and pitchforks ready.

That’s why Hollywood grinds out movie after movie about computers coming to life, programmers falling in love with their avatars, and so forth, starting with Steven Spielberg’s ghastly “AI” (2001). The liberal techno-utopians of Silicon Valley believe they are beneficent Dr. Frankensteins, creating the New Man.

And now we have video of the man behind the curtain.

The video shows a woman walking her bicycle across the highway: the Uber car was going at a good clip and coming over a rise. Not quite three seconds pass between the first sight of the pedestrian and impact, enough time for an alert human driver to spin the wheel. The human driver in the car was supposed to correct for machine errors, but the video shows one Rafaela Vasquez a/k/a Rafael Vasquez staring downwards until the moment of the crash. Reports Arizona’s 12News:

    According to records from the Arizona Department of Corrections, the safety driver sitting in the front seat of a self-driving Uber in Tempe at the time of a fatal pedestrian crash is a convicted felon.

    The driver, 44-year-old Rafaela Vasquez, served several years in prison under the name Rafael Vasquez. She was charged with unsworn falsification and attempt to commit armed robbery. She was released from prison in 2005.

The Wizard turns out to be an obese and indifferent minimum-wage employee with a prison record pretending to work while Uber pretends to pay him or her, as the case may be. …

It will take more than the avoidable death of Elaine Herzberg to persuade the public to light their torches and march on the castle of the Frankenstein wannabes. Nonetheless the disaster offers a teachable moment. The liberal obsession with arbitrary self-definition rests on the pseudo-scientific premise that we are the determinate, machine-like outcome of physical processes. Destroy this premise and the whole artifice of liberal thinking will crumble.

RTWT

HT: Vanderleun.

19 Mar 2018

1938 Phantom Corsair

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1938 Phantom Corsair — The Phantom Corsair is a prototype automobile built in 1938. It is a six-passenger 2-door sedan that was designed by Rust Heinz of the H. J. Heinz family and Maurice Schwartz of the Bohman & Schwartz coachbuilding company in Pasadena, California.

Rust Heinz planned to put the Phantom Corsair, which cost approximately $24,000 to produce in 1938 (equivalent to about $370,000 in 2010), into limited production at an estimated selling price of $12,500. However, Heinz’s death in a car accident in July 1939 ended those plans, leaving the prototype Corsair as the only one ever built.

The Phantom Corsair now resides in the National Automobile Museum (also known as The Harrah Collection) in Reno, Nevada.

The automobile was featured as the “Flying Wombat” in the David O. Selznick film The Young in Heart (1938), starring Janet Gaynor, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Paulette Goddard, and Billie Burke.

The Corsair was also featured in a segment of the Popular Science film series in 1938.

The car is one of the rare vehicles that is unlockable during free roam in the 2002 video game Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven.

The Corsair is one of the 15 rare drivable vehicles featured in the 2011 video game L.A. Noire.

11 Mar 2018

F*** Safety

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Henry Racette is not one of those swaddled, buckled-up-for-safety types, begging for the Government to take away his guns and drive his car for him.

There’s talk – silly, absurd talk – of banning the private ownership of cars. Molon labe, baby! You can have my Yukon, my three-ton id, when you pry it from my cold dead hands. And you can forget the self-driving nonsense, too: up here where I live, you can’t see the lines on the road four months out of the year on account of the blowing snow. Good luck dealing with that, Google.

Ayn Rand, in one of her two major works of fiction (I’m going to go with Atlas Shrugged, but someone correct me if I’m wrong – it’s been almost 40 years since I read it) has her heroine wax rhapsodic (as if there’s any other way to wax) about the act of smoking. Dagney (or possibly Dominique) marvels at the flame held in obeisance inches from her, the spark of destruction so casually lashed into service for the pleasure of mankind. Never having been a smoker, and coming of age as I did during the first great anti-smoking crusades of the ’70s, I admit that the imagery was less compelling for me than it might have been for someone of my parents’ generation. But Dagney’s ruminations have remained with me, an oddly vivid example of our peculiar attraction to dangerous things – and to mastering them.

I like guns. I didn’t always: when I was a child, I was indifferent to them. Then I became a man, a lover of liberty, and an enthusiastic critic of the insipid and emasculating idea that safety comes first. Lots of things are ultimately more important than safety. Being able to credibly say “thus far, and no farther” is one of them; merely reaffirming that we have the right, the moral right and the legal right, to say that is another.

Safety is important, don’t get me wrong. But of all the parameters that define the human experience, safety isn’t the one we should seek to maximize. John Lennon’s “Imagine,” the most comprehensively evil song ever written, is an ode to safety above all else, the pathetic celebration of the apathy-induced coma. I’m glad Lennon never became a US citizen.

Living as an adult male – as opposed to an androgynous, pajama-clad, cocoa-sipping man-child – means spending years, decades even, standing precariously close to the edge of doing something stupid. (The life of a young man is a race between the rising arc of sensibility and the statistical certainty that, if we’re only given enough time, we’ll have our “hold my beer” moment and, if we’re lucky, the ER visit that goes with it.) That sometimes leads to tragedy, but most often to maturity, and there’s no path from baby to man that doesn’t, at least occasionally, tread close to a dangerous edge.

The best things in life are dangerous: freedom, love, faith, women, sex. Children – those raw nerves we thrust out into the world. Cars. Guns. Saying what you think.

RTWT

04 Feb 2018

Uma Is an Awful Driver

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Maureen Dowd serves up Uma Thurman’s #MeToo testimonial.

We learn from all this that Uma is a true New Yorker, unable to drive, and scared out of her wits at the prospect of managing Maxwell Smart’s joke sports car, the Kharmann Ghia! Watch Uma go all over the road before she crashes it.

Uma plays a superwoman assassin in “Kill Bill,” but, alas! we learn here that she’s a hypochondriac (“my permanently damaged neck and my screwed-up knees.”) and a whiner. (“As she sits by the fire on a second night when we talk until 3 a.m., tears begin to fall down her cheeks. She brushes them away.”)

Maureen Dowd clearly sat up and listened to Uma’s BS until 4 A.M. You know what that means don’t you?

05 Jan 2018

“Sascha”

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Austro Daimler ADS R “Sascha” (1922)

Year of production: 1922
Engine: four-cylinder
Displacement: 1,089 cc
Power output: 45 HP (33 kW)
Top speed: 144 km/h (89 mph)

Porsche’s great tradition in the Targa Florio road race started with the “Sascha” for Austro-Daimler. The high-performance compact car, intended as the forerunner of a four-seater production model, scooped first and second places in its engine size category at the very first attempt in 1922. The manoeuvrability and efficient use of fuel by this light vehicle, which weighed only 598 kilograms, were the key to its success. The car named after the man who provided the project’s financial backing – the factory owner Alexander “Sascha”, Count Kolowrat – went on to record 43 competition wins. Ferdinand Porsche, too, was passionate about motor racing because it gave him the opportunity to demonstrate the fitness of his designs in extreme conditions. He pursued and established one particular principle with the “Sascha”: an excellent power-to-weight ratio as a key attribute of all Porsche sports cars. This means the ratio between the vehicle’s weight and its engine output in kilowatts.

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