Monday Musings

In my opinion, narcissism is a most deadly sin and it’s rampant in today’s world. “I’m right and you’re not so I can hurt you.” “I can do whatever I want because I’m really the only person that matters.” In my opinion inherent in much awful behavior today are those two thoughts.

Like with many of today’s ills I place much of the blame, especially in the developed world, on bad parenting. I’m serious, but I’ll just leave it at that…

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No endeavor of human beings is perfect because no human being is perfect. In my opinion no one should have blind faith in any ideology or even any technology or discipline.

The American Automobile Association, better known as AAA, recently released the results of a survey about American attitudes toward autonomous vehicles. The big take-away is that 71 percent of Americans are afraid to ride in autonomous cars.

I would not ride in such a car without any means for me to take control in some type of emergency.

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What do you think of this car?

9k-Mile 1999 Plymouth Prowler

From Bring a Trailer a picture of a 1999 Plymouth Prowler. The current bid is $20,250 and the bidding ends tomorrow.

I am not a fan of street rods/hot rods so I am not really a fan of these cars. However, I appreciate Chrysler’s effort to do something different in the US car market.

All of these cars were powered by a 3.5 liter/215 cubic-inch V6 mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. For the first model year, 1997, the engine was rated at 214 HP/221 LB-FT of torque. For 1999 the output was increased to 253 HP/255 LB-FT. The Prowler was made through the 2002 model year, which means at the end it was called a Chrysler Prowler as the Plymouth make was discontinued in 2001.

About 12,000 Prowlers were made and about 8,500 of those were badged as Plymouths. They certainly are distinctive even if they’re not my cup of tea. What American cars today could be called distinctive?

 

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Brougham

Happy Birthday to Dr. Zal! Although he is my best friend and we have known each other for more than 50 years, he doesn’t read this blog very often. He is not a “car guy.”

Dr. Zal, another close friend (also a Ph.D. in a science discipline, let’s call him Dr. Hoss—he is not a regular Disaffected Musings reader, either) and I were all born in the same hospital 11 days apart. We all attended the same elementary, junior high and high school. (An aside: yesterday our high school became the first school in state history to win three straight state basketball titles at the 3A level. When we attended many years ago, the school was a football power, but a basketball non-entity. The only constant in the world is change.)

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On this day in 1957 Cadillac made its stunning Eldorado Brougham available to the public. I have had the good fortune to see one in person, but lost the photos when I switched “smartphones” in December. (A “smartphone” is only as smart as the person using it.) Never fear…

 

https://i1.wp.com/www.curbsideclassic.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/cadillac-eldorado-brougham_1957.jpg

From curbsideclassic.com a picture of a 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham. The Brougham was derived from the Park Avenue and Orleans show cars from earlier in the 1950s.

I don’t know if you can tell from the photo, but that’s a brushed stainless steel roof. Yes, it has suicide doors. The Eldorado Brougham was truly a loaded car. The quad headlights were a first for Cadillac and maybe for all American cars; sorry, but I’m not sure and a quick search provided conflicting accounts. The list of features is very long so here are just a few: self-leveling air suspension (which proved to be problematic and was replaced by some owners), the first automatic multi-position memory seats, low-profile tires, dual four-barrel carburetors, cruise control, electric door locks. The Brougham was 18 feet long and weighed about 5,300 pounds. The engine was rated at 325 HP/400 LB-FT of torque.

This was the most expensive US-made car in 1957, even more expensive than the $10,000 Continental Mark II. The Eldorado Brougham was priced at $13,074. In today’s dollars, depending on your assumptions, that’s about $120,000-$125,000. Of course, many vehicles today cost more than that. I tried to compare the cost of the Brougham to the cost of a new house, but couldn’t find a consistent value for 1957. I can tell you that according to the Census Bureau, the median price of a new home in 1963—six years later—was about $18,000. It is certainly not a stretch, therefore, to say the Brougham cost more than a large percentage of new homes in 1957.

Not surprisingly, Cadillac didn’t sell many of these cars: just 400 in 1957. The Brougham was about twice the price of any other Eldorado and was even more expensive than the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud.

Just like I think Rolls-Royce has lost some of its prestige I believe the same has happened to Cadillac. Many Americans used to aspire to own a Cadillac. Maybe the make needs to introduce an ultra-luxury model above anything it currently produces. Maybe the Escala will be that car…

 

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Saturday Greetings

I believe that almost no behavioral paradigm is always appropriate. What may be the most difficult part of being human is knowing when to deviate from one’s normal, “acceptable” behavior.

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Hey! Guy and Chris from Cleveland…where have you been? We met many nice people in Scottsdale, Arizona at the Barrett-Jackson auction including Guy and Chris from Cleveland. Feel free to email me or to comment on the blog.

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I guess I have had Rolls-Royce on the brain recently. (I hear you; what brain?!) On this day in 1906 Rolls-Royce Ltd was officially registered with Charles Rolls and Henry Royce as directors.

 

https://i0.wp.com/images.hgmsites.net/hug/2014-rolls-royce-wraith_100444684_h.jpg

From motorauthority.com a picture of a Rolls-Royce Wraith. As you may know, after a series of machinations and transactions Rolls-Royce became a wholly-owned subsidiary of BMW although the company is still technically headquartered in England and the cars are still manufactured there.

Have you ever seen suicide doors on a two-door car? From the Rolls-Royce website a description of the Wraith, “Propelled by a muscular engine, this is the most powerful series model to carry the Rolls-Royce name. Wraith delivers a truly remarkable, spirited drive unlike any other.” As the company acknowledges, the Wraith is a Grand Tourer and not a sports car, per se.

The Wraith is 17 feet long and weighs 5,500 pounds! It is powered by a 6.6 liter V-12 rated at 624 HP. The base MSRP is about $315,000. Hey, if you can afford it and want one who am I to say you can’t have one?

Apparently, even though Rolls-Royce has about 40,000 paint colors “in stock” they will still custom-blend a color for you. The company has seen a strong increase in sales especially compared to the middle of the first decade of the 21st century. In 2005 Rolls-Royce sold only 796 cars; ten years later that number had increased to 3,785. Much of the growth has come from Asia, particularly from China.

Barring a lottery win I will never own a new Rolls and even winning the lottery might not propel me to buy one. Still, they seem like great examples of luxury even if the luster seems to have faded from the name a little.

Any thoughts on Rolls-Royce?

 

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Frugal Friday

First, my take on the college admissions scandal. TOO many kids are in college. Americans have been brainwashed to think that working with one’s hands is beneath them and their children. Welders, plumbers, automobile techs and the like are in short supply and make a good living.

In 1940 there were 6 high school grads for every college grad. Now, there are 3 high school grads for every 2 college grads. About two-thirds of high school grads are attending college the year after graduation. That’s absurd, in my opinion. Of course, government subsidies of higher education do little except to raise its cost significantly. The price of a good or service CANNOT be reduced by subsidizing demand. Go back to Econ 101. (Yes, I am aware of the irony of referring to a “college” course.)

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On to Frugal Friday. Maybe I should have titled the post Frugal Friday, Corvette Edition.

 

Used 1999 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe ALVERTON, PA 15612 - 509555524 - 1

From autotrader.com a picture of a 1999 Corvette with 49,000 miles. Although the listing didn’t specify a transmission type interior photos indicate the car is an automatic. How much? The seller, an independent dealer in Pennsylvania, is asking $11,900. Oh…this first search was for C5 Corvettes, 1997-2004.

This wasn’t the least expensive C5 but seemed to me to be a good balance of price, mileage and condition. My first Corvette was a C5—a 2002 model—and I liked the car enough so that I will probably be a Corvette guy for the rest of my life.

 

This next search was for 1995 and 1996 Corvettes, the last two years of the C4. As I have written before, I have not always been a fan of this generation Corvette, but have developed an affinity for these cars in the last couple of years. However, I certainly wouldn’t buy one before the introduction of the new LT-1 engine in 1992 and would strongly prefer to buy a 1995 or 1996 as the fuel injectors for those years were improved to deal with the effects of the corn farmers subsidy program…uh, ethanol in gasoline.

 

Used 1995 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe FREMONT, NE 68025 - 504940066 - 2

Also from autotrader.com a green 1995 Corvette, automatic transmission with the Nebraska-based dealer (Go Big Red!) asking $8,850 for this car with 69,000 miles. It’s a little suspicious to me that the car was photographed in the rain and the interior is worn, although not torn.

I hear people saying that C4 Corvettes are potentially very good investments as their values will have to increase in the future. NO ONE can predict the future, but if you want a Corvette you can still buy what seems to be a nice one for FOUR figures. Once again, the average “transaction price” for a new vehicle in the US is approaching $40,000.

Any thoughts on these choices for Frugal Friday?

 

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Throwback Thursday

Happy 3.14159265358979323846 day! Sorry, that’s all of the digits of Pi/π I have memorized. I’m 99% sure they’re right and I know that I can check, but I’d rather not.

Pi/π is part of the formula for calculating the displacement of an engine as it is part of the formula for calculating the volume of a cylinder. Displacement equals the square of the bore times the stroke times .7854—π divided by 4—times the number of cylinders.

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My favorite company suffered a massive outage yesterday. Yes, Fack Fucebook and its affiliated sites like Instagram (“social media” for those who don’t want to read or to think) were “down” for much of the day. The company denied it was the victim of a DDOS attack, but would they admit it if it were true?

Speaking of hacks, does anyone else think that what happened with the Boeing 737-Max planes could be the result of someone hacking the software? If so, does anyone think that will give pause to the development of autonomous vehicles?

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In one of my go-to books, History of the American Auto by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide®, this sentence is written: “Never had American automobiles changed more in a single year than in 1949.” One development that led them to that conclusion was the development of this style:

See the source image

 

 

From luxify.com a picture of a 1949 Buick Roadmaster “hardtop convertible.” Of course, this wasn’t a hardtop convertible as we know it today with a retractable hardtop, but a car with a hard roof and no visible B pillar. Buick, Cadillac and Oldsmobile pioneered this style in 1949.

Buick built 4,343 of these in 1949 and they cost $3,203, which was actually $53 more than the soft top. Of course, Cadillac and Oldsmobile also introduced the modern, short-stroke overhead-valve V-8 engine for the 1949 model year. This development is also mentioned in the introduction to 1949 in History of the American Auto.

Any automobile historians out there want to comment on the book’s assertion about 1949? The scary thing to me is that the vast majority of people alive today were not alive in 1949. For example, the median age in the US is about 38. That means half the population is younger than 38 so far more than half the population is younger than 70. Many people assume that events that occurred before they were born are not important; I call that temporal arrogance.

 

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Stag!

I must acknowledge that I am an idiosyncratic person. Is that by choice or is it innate? What do you think of ignorance and apathy? I don’t know and I don’t care; I am who I am.

Who else would note the anniversary of the first Triumph Stag coming off the assembly line? On this day in 1970 the first Stag was produced. I have always really liked these cars; don’t ask me why. (On a total tangent: 1970 was a great year to be a young Baltimore sports fan as the Orioles won the World Series and the Baltimore Colts won the Super Bowl for the 1970 season. Of course, it’s been 35+ years since the Orioles won the World Series and the Colts play in a different city although the Ravens have won two Super Bowls in their 20+ year existence.)

 

https://www.classicargarage.com/assets/images/8/xtriumph-stag-17-1432204663-abfa11f8.jpg.pagespeed.ic.OJTvg3b2Go.jpg

Back to the Stag…this picture is from classicargarage.com. Another picture, this one from classic-chrome.net:

 

https://www.classic-chrome.net/upload/Photos/201504211618271527252607_2.jpg

 

If the styling looks Italian, it is; the exterior design was by Giovanni Michelloti. He designed many bodies for Ferrari and Maserati before becoming the de facto head of styling for Triumph although he did so as the boss of his own company. Michelloti would later design the iconic BMW 2002.

The Stag was powered by Triumph’s own newly developed 3-liter/183 cubic-inch V-8 that produced 144 HP/170 LB-FT of torque. From the Wikipedia article about the Stag:

“…[A] key aim of Triumph’s engineering strategy at the time was to create a family of in-line and V engines of different size around a common crankshaft. The various configurations Triumph envisaged would enable the production of four-, six-, and eight-cylinder power plants of capacity between 1.5 and 4 liters, sharing many parts, and hence offering economies of manufacturing scale and of mechanic training. A number of iterations of Triumph’s design went into production, notably a 2.0-litre slant four-cylinder engine used in the later Dolomite and TR7, and a variant manufactured by StanPart that was initially used in the Saab 99. The Stag’s V8 was the first of these engines to be fitted to a production car. Sometimes described as two four-cylinder engines siamesed together, it is more strictly correct to say the later four-cylinder versions were the left half of a Stag engine.”

The Stag quickly developed a bad reputation for reliability, particularly for overheating. In response to the perception or reality that these engines overheated, some owners replaced the Triumph engine with Rover’s 3.5 liter V-8, which itself was really Buick’s small V-8 of the early 1960s that Rover built under license from Buick.

The Stag was a disappointment for Triumph as the reliability concerns kept sales way below expectations. Only about 26,000 were produced from 1970 to 1977. Only 7,000 of those were exported and, most importantly for Triumph, only about 3,000 went to the United States.

The Stag has a large owners’ club in the UK. The club claims that 9,000 Stags remain in the UK; hard DVLA data (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in the UK) suggests the number is closer to 7,000. Whatever the number, that’s actually a large percentage of those produced especially given the car’s poor reputation and the number that were exported.

Once again, don’t ask why these cars are appealing to me. I don’t know. It is a virtual certainty that I will never own one and with only 3,000 exported to the US 40-ish years ago I doubt many remain here.

What inexplicable attractions do you have?

 

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Random Thoughts

If you’re not a Baltimore Ravens fan then skip this section…

The Ravens are going to “lose” two stalwarts of their defense, Terrell Suggs (who has played for the team for 16 seasons) and C.J. Mosley (five seasons). Under previous GM Ozzie Newsome I think the Ravens would have found a way to sign at least one of those players. Let me quickly add that I am not saying that would have been the “right” move. In fact, I think Newsome was a little too fond of veteran players.

Although the salary cap doesn’t really even things out among the teams at all times, because at any given time teams have disparate amounts of cap room, teams cannot prudently sign Grade B players for Grade A money or Grade C players for Grade B money. However, that’s exactly what happens because of the different amounts of cap space.

Like Jerry Seinfeld said a fan is only rooting for the laundry, anyway.

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According to this story on motor1.com a fleet of C8 Corvettes were recently tested in Arizona with one passenger of note, GM President Mark Reuss. The article notes that if the passenger was really Mr. Reuss then the C8 reveal is likely to be soon, whatever that means. Photos from the article are copyrighted so I cannot legally show them here. What I can tell you is that the photos, granted in camouflage, look very much like a mid-engined Ferrari 458 or 488. A mid-engined layout means that certain design elements must exist and that others are impossible.

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See the source image

From gtspirit.com a picture of the stunning Aston Martin DBS Superleggera. Has there ever been an ugly Aston? I don’t think so. Even Ferrari has made the FF, which I think is a “neither fish nor fowl” design.

This car is basically a DB11, but with some tweaks including wider tires. The engine has also been tweaked and now produces 715 HP. Although one can’t see the suspension on the Superleggera it is different from the “base” DB11.

How much? The base MSRP is just $308,081. Yes, even at that price one can pay more for options like a carbon fiber roof ($4,545).

Anyone want to offer an opinion on this or any other Aston Martin?

 

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Monday Musings

Once again I ask that if you are reading this blog, please read the comments for each post. They are as much a part of Disaffected Musings as the posts.

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Professional football is the undisputed king of the American sports landscape. Of course, that has not always been the case. Anyway, while I have not been watching the AAF I understand that its TV ratings have been respectable.

The AAF wants to partner with the NFL. So did the All-America Football Conference when it first formed. Not familiar with the AAFC? Where do you think the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers started?

I have always been fascinated with the idea of leagues that would compete with the establishment. Up until just a few years ago I would create such leagues on paper complete with league rules, team nicknames and yearly standings. The last one I created was called the North American Football League (NAFL) and it was a spring league that wouldn’t quite compete head-to-head with the NFL, like the AAF. Like I keep quoting from the movie Diner, if you don’t have dreams you have nightmares. I have nightmares, anyway, so I might as well have daydreams.

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See the source image

OK, from the trident on the front one should be able to tell it’s a Maserati. From supercars.net a picture of a Maserati Bora. On this day in 1971 the Bora was introduced at the Geneva Auto Show.

At this time Citroën had a controlling interest in Maserati and wanted to develop a mid-engined two-seat sports car to compete with the Lamborghini Miura and the De Tomaso Mangusta. At its introduction the Bora was powered by a 4.7 liter/288 cubic-inch V-8 rated at 306 HP/340 LB-FT of torque. It was a DOHC design with four carburetors. (Good luck tuning the car!) In 1973 a 4.9 liter engine was produced that would meet US emission standards.

Actually, according to Wikipedia the Bora was introduced with two engines (a 4.9 liter spec as well), but according to automobile-catalog.com only the 4.7 liter was available at first. I’m going to trust the latter, but I could be wrong, of course. In any event, the Bora was produced through 1978 with about 560 made.

With all of the speculation surrounding the possible introduction of a mid-engined Corvette for the eighth generation it is worth noting that many sports cars have had mid-engine configurations. The rumors about the C8 Corvette include the notion that GM/Chevrolet engineers believe they have reached the limits of the front-engine, rear-drive setup. We’ll have to wait a little longer to find out.

 

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Stupidity

Changing the time twice a year is like cutting off the top of a blanket and sewing it on to the bottom. Not only is it pointless and anachronistic, it is dangerous. The Fatality Analysis Reporting System (a division of the NHTSA) discovered a 17 percent increase in traffic fatalities on the Monday after the shift to Daylight Savings Time. That’s tomorrow, folks.

One of the appeals of potentially moving to Arizona is that they leave the clock alone. Stop the madness!

 

Are extreme acts justified in order to stop extremism?

 

Auroras from Saturn! No, the Saturn Aurora was not a car…

 

 

Saturday Salary Arbitration

I don’t know if salary arbitration still works this way in baseball, but in my 20+ years in the game a player with three or more years of service (and certain players with more than two years but fewer than three) had the right to have his salary determined by an arbitrator. As you can imagine this right boosted the average salary of players in this service class relative to those who were not eligible for arbitration.

Contrary to what fans think, the agent doesn’t compare his client to Babe Ruth and the team doesn’t compare the player to a Triple-A reject. However, comparable players are at the heart of the process. The player’s agent will say that his client is comparable to players A, B and C. The team may acknowledge comparability to player C, but say the player is actually closer to players C, D and E where D and E have a lower salary than players A and B.

The team and player each submit a number and the arbitrator has to pick one or the other. The midpoint between the two has some importance, but I believe that historically teams have won 54%-56% of cases, which means the player seems to have a de facto burden of proof.

One of the most enjoyable moments I ever had in baseball was after an arbitration hearing in which the team I worked for ultimately lost the decision. Bill James was working for the player’s agent and spent much of the hearing trying to get me to laugh. He failed and later he expressed amazement at my stoicism. I told him I was simply following orders not to show any emotion.

After the hearing I went back to my hotel room where I received a call from Bill at about 8 PM. He asked if I was busy and if not if I wanted to head down to the hotel restaurant for a snack and a chat. Steve Mann, whom I also knew, was also working for the agent and he joined us as well.

The conversation was quite stimulating; well, to me anyway. Among other things we talked about the maturation of complex systems and its implications. The next thing we knew it was 3 AM. Bill and Steve had to prepare for another hearing later that day. As we got up from the table I said that we should write a book about the topics of our discussion. Bill then said, “Yeah, it would sell 12 copies.” To which Steve replied, “And three of those copies are right here.” We all howled with laughter.

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No, I have not completely recovered from my bug. In fact, yesterday I coughed so hard at times that I thought I was going to cough up a lung. The fact that I am in the third week of being ill is another sad example of my aging. As one ages the immune system simply doesn’t work as well.

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The number of 2016 Z06 Corvettes that meet my search criteria on CarGurus is dwindling rapidly, down to six when I checked this morning. (CarMax doesn’t have any this morning.) Here is one new listing:

It actually has 3LZ trim and is certified pre-owned. The wheels are dark, but do have a light metallic ring. The dealer is asking about $63,000 and the car has a little less than 13,000 miles. I hear you out there, “Sh*t or get off the pot already.” As I have written before I have grown indecisive as I get older in no small way due to the less than satisfactory state of my career for the last 8-9 years.

At this point I estimate the probability that I buy a 2016 Z06 Corvette at 90%. The probability that I buy something else out of left field is about 5% and the probability I buy nothing is about 5%. Ask me again tomorrow and I might give you a different answer.

 

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