Beware of Bitcoin

Six months ago Bitcoin was trading at $12,000. Today, it is barely half that at about $6,400. The only people remotely capable of making money in cryptocurrency are investing professionals who study these markets. This CNBC article tells the stories of ordinary investors who have lost a fortune in cryptocurrency.

Fiat currency “works” because governments have the power to tax and to borrow. Cryptocurrencies have neither. Even if these “currencies” experience another boom cycle, ultimately governments will crack down on them even more because they don’t want to lose the power to regulate currency.

Stay away from investments you don’t understand. Investing is difficult enough as it is. Everyone wants to get rich quick, but that’s not really the way to build lasting wealth. Like everything else in life, success in investing is a combination of skill, work ethic and luck, perhaps in equal measures.

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At the recently concluded Mecum auction in Harrisburg, PA a car like this, a 1983 BMW 633csi, was offered for sale. (Picture from automotorpad.com) Once again, Mecum does not allow its website photos to be captured so I couldn’t show the actual car. The auction car had a silver exterior, a black interior and seemed to be in good shape for being 35 years old. All in, meaning including commission, how much did the winning bidder pay for this car? Wait for it…$1,100!

OK, maybe something was very wrong with the car that would have been obvious upon in-person inspection. However, according to the 2019 Collector Car Price Guide by Krause Publications, even a grade “4” car like this (a “1” is a concours quality car, a “6” is a parts car) is worth $2,300. A grade “3” car is worth about $5,200. The 633csi at the Mecum auction didn’t remotely resemble a parts car.

One has to be careful buying a car at an auction for many reasons. However, it is possible to buy an auction car “below the money.” Granted, that usually requires some luck, but luck is a major factor in life outcomes as I have written many times, such as earlier in this post.

Have any of you purchased a car at auction? I would very much like to read about your experience(s).

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Monday Melange

An update on yesterday’s post about iTunes: apparently, I can rip music from CDs into iTunes, but that means going through my large CD collection and “re-ripping” music that was on my previous computer. Apple has really dropped the ball on this, in my opinion.

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In my previous blog I wrote a little more about economics and finance and a little less about cars. In that vein, one criticism of the tax bill that went into effect in January, 2018 was that all of the “extra” cash for corporations would go into dividends and stock buybacks and very little would go into capital expenditures, or capex.

From blackrockblog.com comes this piece written in late June, 2018 entitled, “The re-opening of the capital spending spigot.” An excerpt from the article reads, “Capital spending over the next 12 months is expected to grow at its highest level since 2012, a Deloitte survey finds. And S&P 500 first-quarter earnings results confirmed U.S. companies were investing at multi-year highs. [emphasis mine]

It’s too early to make the call on a new and enduring capex regime, but growing corporate profits, greater business confidence and tax cuts in the U.S. should support investment spending in the medium term.”

Republicans are wrong in assuming that the Marginal Propensity to Consume (MPC) and Marginal Propensity to Invest (MPI) are close to one, but Democrats are wrong in assuming that the MPC and MPI are close to zero unless the stimulus is direct government spending. Companies make decisions based on the expected net present value of future cash flows and if an investment will yield them a strong positive return, then they will be inclined to make such an investment. A higher after-tax return makes more investments potentially worthwhile.

While I will not live to see this happen, it is my fervent belief that the divide in American politics is terminally intractable and that divide will lead to the dissolution of the United States as we know it. The mindless and intolerant vitriol from both sides only shows signs of worsening.

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From carswithmuscles.com a photo of a 1968 AMC AMX. The AMX was a two-seat muscle car introduced by American Motors for the 1968 model year. The AMX was, in essence, a Javelin with the wheelbase shortened and the rear seats removed although the base drivetrain was different. For example, all AMXs were equipped with V-8 engines with four-barrel carburetors. The base Javelin engine was an inline 6-cylinder with a one-barrel carburetor.

The AMX was a distinct model for only three years, 1968-1970. After that, “AMX” was the name of an option package for the Javelin. For the three years in which the AMX was a model unto its own, total sales were only about 19,000.

My wonderful wife really likes the look of these cars. I am not in agreement as I think the fastback shape is too chunky with too much metal behind the rear window. This car is one of the very few about which we disagree. I think the Javelin looks better.

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From curbsideclassic.com a picture of a 1968 AMC Javelin. In my opinion, this generation of the Javelin is very underrated in terms of styling.

Do you have an opinion on the AMX and the Javelin? What cars do you think are mostly forgotten in terms of styling? As always, I hope to read your comments.

 

Thumbs Down On iTunes

Regular readers know I purchased a new desktop computer in early July. Yesterday, I decided it was time to sync/backup my iPhone with my new computer. Much to my chagrin, the iTunes “library” on my computer only has the 30 songs that I purchased from iTunes, not the entire collection of roughly 750 songs. BOO! That wasn’t always the case, either.

My tastes in music are decidedly non-mainstream. I even have songs on my iPhone that I have created through editing. How am I supposed to back all of these up now? Does anyone reading have a solution? Why should I have to purchase music from iTunes that I have already purchased on CD and ripped to my computer? Shame on you, Apple.

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This is the most expensive road-legal car currently listed for sale on Hemmings, not counting estimates on cars soon to be auctioned. It is a 1963 Ferrari 400 Superamerica LWB.

From the ad:

“The 400 Superamerica is often considered to be the grandest of Ferrari’s grand touring automobiles, as it is utterly uncompromising in every sense. The Superamerica offered its owners nothing but the finest in terms of automotive technology, with cutting-edge design, performance, and luxury. This particular Ferrari is one of the final examples constructed, and it is truly capable of anything its next owner desires.”

I actually don’t think this 400 Superamerica has as good an exterior design as most other Ferraris, but what do I know? So, what is the seller asking? $3,500,000…that’s not even close to the most expensive private sale about which the price is known.

The $70,000,000 FERRARI GTO and the 1964 Pontiac GTO

From americancarsamericangirls.com a picture of a rare 1963 Ferrari GTO, only 36 of these were made. Reportedly, the car sold earlier this year for $70,000,000. This particular car finished fourth at LeMans in 1964.

I would love to be able to afford a $70 million car although I wouldn’t necessarily buy one. I think that what other people do with the money they’ve legally acquired is their business (and not for me to pass judgment, either) as long as the purchase is legal. I am pretty sure that if I could afford a $70 million car I would have multiple very nice cars in my garage.

What is the highest price you’ve ever paid for a car? Since I asked this of you, I’ll tell you my answer. I paid about $51,000 for my second Corvette, the 2007 model I purchased new. As I have written many times before, my baseball business was thriving then so the purchase wasn’t a stretch in the least. I paid for the 2007 Vette by trading in my 2002 Corvette and paying cash for the difference. By the way, according to smartasset.com, $51,000 in 2007 translates to $61,700 in 2018.

Once again, if you are reading Disaffected Musings please tell your friends to check it out. Also, please feel free to post comments relating to the content. Thanks.

I Blog Therefore I Am

I don’t feel that way, just thought it was an interesting post title. Why do I blog? Why does anyone blog?

A very small percentage of bloggers make an enormous amount of money. Some bloggers receive 50,000-75,000 page views a day! (My total number of page views in 7+ months of blogging on WordPress is fewer than 10,000.) However, I don’t think most bloggers start out because they want to make a lot of money, but I admit that’s just a guess.

I blog because I enjoy writing and I am a good writer. Sorry if that sounds immodest (well, not really), but false modesty is also supposed to be a sin. Remember, I wrote a book that the Wall Street Journal said was the best book of its kind ever written. I once wrote an article for one of Bill James’ books (yes, I am dropping his name again). Before I wrote it, we had agreed on the fee he would pay. After receiving the article, Bill sent me a check for more than the agreed upon amount with a note saying, “I only had to change one word in the entire article and I defy you to find the change.”

In today’s Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/text world, writing is a skill that is much less in demand than in previous generations. I keep reading that “content is king” and that websites are desperate for good writers who can create good content. Well, I don’t really see many manifestations of that, but I admit my Internet favorites list is very small.

If you were to start a blog, what would you write about?

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Beware of your sources, I guess. One book, that shall remain nameless, lists tomorrow (August 19th) as the day in 1958 that the last Packard was built. Other sources, however, list July 13th or July 25th. Of course, for Packard purists the last “real” Packard was assembled on June 25, 1956 (I hope that date is correct). For the 1957 and 1958 model years Packards were just badge-engineered Studebakers. Packard and Studebaker merged in 1954.

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From commons.wikimedia.org a picture of a 1956 Packard Caribbean convertible. Compare the magnificent looks of that car with this 1958 Packard Hawk, an obvious copy of the Studebaker Hawk series:

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(From skoshi8.deviantart.com) The infamous “fishmouth” grille (not to be confused with the “Frogmouth” episode of the Flintstones, a really inside joke) makes one wonder what was the state of mind for the designer(s) who drew it.

A famous advertising slogan was for Packard, “Ask The Man Who Owns One.” A book with that title—obviously about Packard advertising—was written by Arthur W. Einstein, Jr. Believe it or not, I don’t own the book nor have I read it. I suspect those facts will change shortly, however. This blog, 56packardman.com, is not exclusively about Packards or automobiles, but the masthead photo shows a beautiful 1956 Packard 400.

Whatever the actual date, the last Packard of any kind was manufactured 60 years ago this year. Once again, I will express lament at the loss of so many car makes while acknowledging the inevitability of same.

 

 

Friday Farrago

The three fundamental lessons of economics:

1) People respond to incentives,

2) All decisions require trade-offs,

3) Opportunity costs are real.

Most people, and that obviously includes politicians, don’t seem to understand any of those three, let alone all of them. Another way to explain those lessons, but especially the last two, is that the ends almost never justify the means because resources are finite.

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A picture by yours truly of an Alfa Romeo Montreal, taken in December, 2016 (hence the holiday flowers in the photo). I thought of this car since one is currently available on Bring A Trailer. Are you familiar with that site? People can buy and sell cars much less expensively than at a brick and mortar auction. The buyer’s commission is just five percent—as opposed to the ten or twelve percent at most auctions—and is capped at $5,000. The seller pays just $99, not eight or ten percent. Of course, one takes the risk inherent in buying a car online. However, the listings are filled with pictures, descriptions and comments by many knowledgeable people.

This Autoweek article is an excellent history of the car. The Montreal was built as a concept car for the 1967 Montreal Expo, although according to Autoweek, the car wasn’t officially given its name at that time. (Ironically, the car was never sold in Montreal, or anywhere else in North America as Alfa Romeo didn’t, or couldn’t, produce a version that would meet North American emissions standards.) The bodywork was designed by the legendary Marcello Gandini of Bertone. The Montreal was one of only three postwar Alfa Romeo cars that had a V-8 engine.

The first production version was shown at the 1970 Geneva Motor Show. The Montreal was a small car (not sure if that’s apparent from the photo) with only a 92-inch wheelbase and a 166-inch length. By comparison, my wonderful wife’s 2015 Corvette, which is not a large car, has a 107-inch wheelbase and a 177-inch length.

The V-8 in the Montreal was of small displacement, just 2.6 liters/158 cubic inches. (I try to keep Bill Stephens happy.) The net output was 197 HP/188 LB-FT of torque.

The Montreal was produced from 1971 to 1977 with only about 3,900 made in total. This website dedicated to the Montreal claims that exact production figures are not known. However, with the Arab oil embargo of 1973, demand for the car plummeted and never recovered. About 2,300 were made in 1972 and that number plunged to just 300 in 1973. Only about 400 were produced from 1974 to 1977 combined.

In my opinion, one would never mistake the Montreal for any other car. I think it is quite good-looking and it really looked quite fetching up close. In the past I have opined that one area where American auto makers have been deficient is in styling. The current blight of homogenized offerings is simply an extension of US car makers being afraid of pushing the styling envelope. I am very much a fan of Automobile Magazine’s motto, “No Boring Cars!” It should go without saying, but I am going to say it anyway, boring doesn’t just apply to drive train and suspension, it also applies to the appearance. Ed Welburn, General Motors’ Vice-President of Global Design from 2003 to 2016, likes to say that if cars have equal technology, then the better looking car wins. While, of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I think few would argue with the notion that foreign car makers often use bolder design themes than US companies.

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My condolences to the family and fans of Aretha Franklin, who passed away yesterday from pancreatic cancer. My marvelous mom died from the same illness as did one of her brothers. I can’t truthfully say that I am a huge fan of Aretha Franklin, but I appreciate her talent and her impact on American music. I do have one of her songs on my iPhone, her version of “You’re All I Need To Get By.”

Carpe Diem!

Throwback Thursday

What do salesmen say? You have to ask for the sale.

Once again, almost every day at least one person in the US is reading this blog very early in the morning, before 6 AM Eastern/3 AM Pacific. I would very much appreciate if that person(s) would tell others about the blog and pass on the URL. (https://disaffectedmusings.com) In general, I would be grateful if everyone who reads this blog on a regular or semi-regular basis, even if they know me personally, would spread the word and the blog URL. Thanks. It would also be great if you would sign up to follow the blog; you don’t even have to have a WordPress account. You can sign up with your email address.

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From cargurus.com a picture of a 1968 Dodge Charger, the first year of the second generation of the car. (I think 50 years ago is enough “throwback.”) This car gained popularity when it was featured in the classic car chase scene in the movie Bullitt.

As regular readers know, I am not really a big Mopar fan. Fiat/Chrysler makes always rank near the bottom of the JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study. Historically only a few of their cars grab my interest, but this is my favorite Mopar ever and could be a contender for my Ultimate Garage.

According to this story from The Detroit News, the 1969 Charger is the most searched classic and muscle car in the entire United States on ClassicCar.com. A 1969 Charger was the featured vehicle on the TV show The Dukes Of Hazzard, which I must confess I have never watched.

The 1969 version of this car has a styling feature with which I am not enamored, a split front grille. I like the long, continuous grille of the 1968 model. I think the only styling quibble I have is those fake scallops on the front of the doors. When it comes to a performance car I really believe in function over form. Well, in general I believe in function over form.

For model year 1968, almost 100,000 Chargers were built (96,108, to be exact). For the entire three-year run of the second generation, Dodge built 235,580 Chargers with 1968 being the most popular year, despite the current popularity of the 1969 model.

What do you think of the 1968-70 Charger? What are your favorite Mopar cars?

 

Remember that Facebook and Google are evil. Don’t let them take control of your life.

Pictures From The Past

Two very faded and somewhat blurry photos of my first car, a 1967 Pontiac GTO. These were taken outside my college dorm in my second year.

As was the style for many muscle cars of the era, my GTO was set up with a “California Rake” where the rear was higher than the front. My father and I achieved that look with the use of very stiff rear springs that were taller than stock.

I didn’t know that I still had these photos although I certainly remember taking them. During one of the occasional attempts to “trim our holdings” by my wonderful wife and me, I unearthed these pictures. Many of the other 20 or so photos have almost completely faded even though they were in an envelope that was inside another envelope. (A shout-out to my wonderful wife who helped me scan these on my new printer.)

OK, now it’s time for a less than interesting story of the “pat yourself on the back” variety. The reason I wrote “in my second year” and not “my sophomore year” is that I entered college as, basically, a sophomore. If I had written “junior year” then the inference would have been it was my third year.

At that time the senior year of the high school curriculum from which I graduated was considered the equivalent of a freshman year in college by many universities within about a 100 mile radius from the high school ONLY if the student had graduated with very good grades. I graduated very high in my large class (~530) and was able to acquire an entire year of college credits without having to take any AP exams. (Maybe some other time I’ll write about the interesting meeting with the (inexperienced) transcript evaluator who had never heard of my high school or its special curriculum.)

While, of course, I am hardly an objective observer I still think the 1967 GTO is a beautiful car. Does anyone think I can find out what happened to the car by using the license plate?

 

P.S. Almost every day at least one person in the US is reading this blog very early in the morning, before 6 AM Eastern/3 AM Pacific. I would very much appreciate if that person(s) would tell others about the blog and pass on the URL. (https://disaffectedmusings.com) In general, I would be grateful if everyone who reads this blog on a regular or semi-regular basis, even if they know me personally, would spread the word and the blog URL. Thanks. It would also be great if you would sign up to follow the blog; you don’t even have to have a WordPress account. You can sign up with your email address.

Is This The Golden Age?

This is not the golden age for civil discourse. In my opinion no party or ideology has a monopoly on intolerance or arrogance. This is not the golden age for selflessness. People are more self-absorbed and more narcissistic than ever.

This is not the golden age for automotive styling, in my opinion, but it is the golden age for automotive performance and reliability. This may also be the last gasp of performance cars powered by internal combustion engines, which for some of us will always have a magical quality and, therefore, makes this a golden age for those with a love of those engines.

Long-time friend and Disaffected Musings reader Robert suggested a look at horsepower through the ages, which led me to the “Golden Age” theme for this post.

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From carswithmuscles.com a picture of a 1964 Pontiac GTO, the car considered by many/most car enthusiasts as the first modern muscle car. As many of you know, initially the GTO wasn’t a separate model but an option package for the Tempest. That’s how John DeLorean circumvented GM restrictions on HP/weight ratios then in force. The GTO became a separate model in 1966.

The standard GTO engine for 1964, a 389 cubic-inch V-8, was rated at 325 HP/428 LB-FT of torque. That HP was a “gross” measure as opposed to the “net” measure adopted in the early 1970s.

Of course, and as I have lamented here many times, Pontiac no longer produces cars. (It still produces revenue for GM, however, as “The General” still sells items with the Pontiac logo.)

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From gmauthority.com a picture of a 2018 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. This car is powered by a 6.2-liter (376 cubic inches to keep Bill Stephens happy) supercharged V-8 that generates 650 HP and 650 LB-FT of torque. That HP rating is exactly twice the power of the original GTO engine.

My OCD-addled and ADD-addled brain does a lot of daydreaming. One common theme is time travel. I would love to be able to take a modern ZL1 Camaro, or any other contemporary high-performance car, back 50 or 60 years and run it against a high performance car of that day. The GPS wouldn’t work and neither would my smartphone, but the car would be a revelation to people of 50 or 60 years ago. Not just in raw speed and power, but in handling, efficiency and reliability the modern car is just light years ahead of its ancestors.

When Chevrolet introduced fuel injection in 1957 it bragged about 283 HP from 283 cubic inches, claiming to be the first engine to reach 1 HP per cubic inch. That wasn’t exactly true as an optional engine for the 1956 Chrysler 300B produced 355 HP from 354 cubic inches, but advertising has never been a high-integrity profession.

My 2009 BMW Z4 produced 300 HP stock from its fuel-injected, twin-turbo inline 6-cylinder engine of 182 cubic inch displacement and with the modifications that have been done, the engine is probably now producing 365-370 HP or about two HP per cubic inch. That type of specific output is hardly rare these days. The turbocharged versions of the Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky (pictured below courtesy of pinthiscars.com and fastlanecars.com, respectively) produced 260 HP stock from 122 cubic inches and could be upgraded via the dealer to 290 HP.

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Automobile engines today produce far more power more efficiently than engines that were made within the lifetime of many people alive today. While other aspects of modern life seem to be moving in an atavistic fashion, automotive technology, as manifest by engine output and other parameters, is definitely making progress.

 

Remember that Facebook and Google are evil. Don’t let them take control of your life.

 

Monday Musings

Long-time friend and Disaffected Musings reader Robert sent me an email with a long list of post suggestions. I won’t tackle all of them today, but let me start with this: the increasing length of new car loans.

Many realtors have told me that when most people/families buy a house, they’re really trying to buy a payment they can afford. The price of the house is one factor in that price, but not the only factor.

Cars are becoming more expensive so car loans are getting longer in order to reduce the monthly payment. The problem, of course, is that because of slower amortization the buyer is more likely to be upside down on the car and the buyer pays more interest over the life of the loan. I recently read that even with longer terms, the average monthly payment for a new car has moved past the $500 mark to $539.

If a person borrows $30,000 on a 4-year loan at 4% to buy a car, their payment is $677/month. If the term is stretched to seven years, and car loans are now offered at that term and even longer, the monthly payment is $410/month at the same interest rate.

However, in the first example $7,057 is paid in principal the first year and total interest paid over the life of the loan is $2,514. In the second example, only $3,790 in principal is paid in year one and total interest paid is $4,445.

I “stretched out” the loan term on the first vehicle I purchased with my own money, much to the chagrin of my father, because I wanted to make sure I could afford the payment. I took out a 5-year loan, which was not common when I purchased the car (the late 1980s). However, I could easily afford the payment and I wound up paying off the loan several months early, anyway.

What is the highest monthly payment you’ve ever had on a vehicle? As I have written before, I have not had a car payment in a long time (13 years) and my wonderful wife has not had one for even longer (16 years). I know most people do not have the resources to pay cash for a car, but we do not like to borrow money and to pay interest in order to acquire something that depreciates in value over time.

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From momentcar.com a picture of a 1988 Chevrolet S-10 Blazer, which was the first vehicle I ever purchased exclusively with my money. My automotive tastes are not the same now as they were 30 years ago and I am no longer concerned with getting to work in bad weather as I am (involuntarily) retired.