Connections

Connections is a fascinating (IMO) TV series created, written and narrated by James Burke, a science historian. Each episode would link people or inventions that didn’t seem to be related at all. From the Wikipedia article about the series here is the synopsis for a typical episode:

“‘Eat, Drink and Be Merry…’ begins with plastic, the plastic credit card, and the concept of credit, then leaps back to the time of the dukes of Burgundy, the first state to use credit. The dukes used credit for many luxuries, and to buy more armor for a stronger army. The Swiss opposed the army of Burgundy and invented a new military formation (with soldiers using pikes) called the pike square. The pike square, along with events following the French Revolution, set in motion the growth in the size of armies and in the use of ill-trained peasant soldiers. Feeding these large armies became a problem for Napoleon, which caused the innovation of bottled food. The bottled food was first put in champagne bottles then in tin cans. Canned food was used for armies and for navies. In one of the bottles, the canned food went bad, and people blamed the spoiled food on ‘bad air’, also known as swamp air. Investigations around ‘bad air’ and malaria led to the innovation of air conditioning and refrigeration. In 1892, Sir James Dewar invented a container that could keep liquids hot or cold (the thermos) which led three men – Konstanin Tsiolkovsky, Robert Goddard, and Hermann Oberth – to construct a large thermal flask for either liquid hydrogen and oxygen or for solid fuel combustion for use in rocket propulsion, applying the thermal flask principle to keep rocket fuel cold and successfully using it for the V-2 rocket and the Saturn V rocket that put man on the moon.”

Each episode in the original series (1978) was fascinating to me. I didn’t enjoy the book anywhere near as much nor did I enjoy the “sequels,” Connections2 or Connections3 as much as the original.

In his book Steve Magnante’s 1001 Corvette Facts Magnante writes about a “Connections” event. Fact #518 links the Chevrolet Corvair, the Porsche 928 and the C4 Corvette. Magnante writes that Porsche developed the front-engined 924 and 928 as a response to the reaction to the rear-engined Corvair. Porsche worried that the US, its largest export market, might ban rear-engined cars. The introduction of the 924 and particularly the 928 led General Motors/Chevrolet to abandon any mid-engined Corvette and re-commit to a front-engine layout in the C4. (In my opinion much of the excessive and vitriolic criticism of corporate America has its roots in the Corvair and the controversy it created. In his book, Engines of Change: A History of the American Dream in Fifteen Cars, Paul Ingrassia connects the Corvair to the election of George Bush in 2000. Ralph Nader became so famous that he ran for President and received enough votes in Florida so that the state and its electoral votes would be awarded to Bush instead of Al Gore. That’s a real Connections story!)

 

See the source image

From journal.classiccars.com a picture of a first-generation Corvair.

 

See the source image

From momentcar.com a picture of a Porsche 928.

 

https://www.corvsport.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/VHaFnI.jpg

From corvsport.com a picture of a C4 Corvette. This happens to be a 1990 model.

 

People who think they can predict the future are either delusional or lying. Nature is extremely complex and the only prediction that can be made is that nature is unpredictable. Human behavior, while not as complex as nature, can be inscrutable as well.

 

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Tariffs For Tuesday

I realize that this title will turn off some potential readers, but that’s OK.

I have a Masters degree in Economics. When I earned that degree the institution I attended did not have a Ph.D. program. After finishing my Masters I applied to and was accepted by three of the top Ph.D. Economics programs in the country. The university whose offer I accepted even let me defer my admission a year. I blew them off; I never registered for classes and never informed them of my decision not to attend. Hey, I was in my mid-20s.

Tariffs have been in the news recently, of course. People who are closer to their Econ curriculum are better at explaining this than I am so here is a definition and some exposition from Investopedia.com:

 

“A tariff is a tax imposed on imported goods and services.

Tariffs are used to restrict imports by increasing the price of goods and services purchased from overseas and making them less attractive to consumers. A specific tariff is levied as a fixed fee based on the type of item, such as a $1,000 tariff on a vehicle. An ad-valorem tariff is levied based on the item’s value, such as 10% of the value of the vehicle. [emphasis mine]

Governments may impose tariffs to raise revenue or to protect domestic industries – particularly nascent ones – from foreign competition. By making foreign-produced goods more expensive, tariffs can make domestic-produced ones more attractive. By protecting these industries, governments can also protect jobs. Tariffs can also be used as an extension of foreign policy: imposing tariffs on a trading partner’s main exports is a way to exert economic leverage.

Tariffs can have unintended side-effects, however. They can make domestic industries less efficient by reducing competition. They can hurt domestic consumers, since a lack of competition tends to push up prices. [emphasis mine] They can generate tensions by favoring certain industries over others, as well as certain regions over others: tariffs designed to benefit manufacturers in cities may hurt consumers in rural areas, who do not benefit from the policy and are likely to pay more for manufactured goods. Finally, an attempt to pressure a rival country using tariffs can devolve into an unproductive cycle of retaliation, known as a trade war.”

 

ALL policies have trade-offs. In terms of the auto industry, some people may do without purchasing a new vehicle, which hurts domestic dealers of foreign and domestic autos, because the price of all cars can increase because of tariffs. Also, for some consumers domestic automobiles are NOT a substitute for foreign ones.

Theoretically, automobile manufacturers could build cars in the countries to which they want to sell them in order to avoid tariffs. For example, BMW’s largest plant is in Spartanburg, South Carolina. However, the capital investment needed to build a plant is enormous. In addition, the “host” country might not approve the construction of a plant as a way to exert leverage over foreign countries although I don’t know how often that actually happens.

In general I am a proponent of what I call “open trade.” I dislike the phrase “free trade” because nothing is free. It would be wonderful if tariffs were at or near zero for all goods and services. However, that is not the real world. One of the reasons I so dislike political ideology is that a definition of an ideologue is someone who refuses to acknowledge that the policies they advocate have costs.

I also think that tariffs have their place in a policy portfolio. (You know me and alliteration.) Governments can enable domestic industries to sell goods at a “loss” abroad because the governments subsidize companies in those industries. Those goods are, therefore, less expensive than the alternatives produced in the purchasing country. Of course, proving such behavior may not be as easy as one might think. I am also not saying that foreign countries are subsidizing their automobile industries so that their car companies can sell cars at a loss abroad.

I think that competition is usually a good thing for consumers. I also would hate to see cars like the one below de facto excluded from the US market:

 

https://s.aolcdn.com/commerce/autodata/images/USC80MSC051A01300.jpg

From autoblog.com a picture of a Maserati GranTurismo coupe. By the way, only about 7 percent of all vehicles sold in the US in 2018 were manufactured in Europe. Keep that in mind as you hear news about automobile tariffs.

 

I would like to hear from you on this topic. Thanks.

 

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Monday Musings

First, another of my semi-regular complaints/rants about lack of readers. Without using the Digital Gangster AKA Facebook I know I will never have thousands of readers a day. I still think Disaffected Musings should have at least 5-10 times the number of views it actually receives. For a brief period last October/November it appeared as if that might be possible. At the higher number, perish the thought, I might actually get paid for my time and effort.

In this vein I am considering cutting back to 3-4 posts a week. I realize that the number of total viewers would decline even more, but I would have more of my finite time for me. On the other hand, I realize that blogging is cheaper than therapy and probably almost as effective.

Facebook is a Digital Gangster! #DeleteFacebook #FackFucebook

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My wonderful wife and I spent much of yesterday watching an Overhaulin’ marathon on Motor Trend. Overhaulin’ was a show (it’s no longer in production) where a team led by the legendary Chip Foose would acquire someone’s car on a ruse and then give the car back after completely modifying it.

Most of the people whose car was the one on which the work was done react quite emotionally upon seeing the finished product. That reaction is the payoff for watching the show and on more than one occasion Chip Foose remarked that’s why they do what they do.

The reason I’m mentioning all of this is that for much of yesterday I kept wondering how emotional I will be when I actually buy the 2016 Corvette Z06 I have decided to buy. I am really getting psyched about acquiring this car.

 

https://i2.wp.com/gmauthority.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/2016-Chevrolet-Corvette-Stingray-in-Daytona-Sunrise-Orange-Metallic.jpg

From gmauthority.com a picture of a 2016 Corvette in Daytona Sunrise Orange. If I can I will buy a car in that color, but as I have written before only 251 Z06 coupes were painted in orange in 2016. Repeat after me: I have dreams, but I live in the real world. I am not going to wait a year to find an orange 2016 Z06. Torch Red and Long Beach Red look good, too.

This is also a nice segue to Ultimate Garage 2.0. I would very much like to read what cars would be in your ultimate garage. Ideally, your list should include 5-10 cars and you have total freedom to choose the criteria for selection.

 

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Saturday Sayings

I wasn’t going to post today, but OCD is a bitch even if it’s OCD-lite.

 

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”

“The unlived life is not worth examining.”

“A truly great person will neither trample on a worm nor sneak to an emperor.”

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

“Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts.”

The last two remarks are attributed to Albert Einstein. Any thoughts?

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I don’t know if I actually saw this on TV or just dreamt it, but I recall a panel discussion about policy, both public sector and private sector. The discussion became heated when one of the participants said, “Just stick to the facts.” Someone else then said, “Facts don’t exist; everything is just an opinion.” To which someone else replied, “Water freezes at zero celsius; that’s a fact.” The reply? “That’s just something white men made up to make money selling ice.” Silence reigned with participants shaking their heads. Let me quickly add that I do not remember or could not ascertain the ethnicity of the person making the “white men selling ice” comment.

Does anyone else recall that discussion or anything like it? Have I lost my mind? (Not an implausible assumption at this point.) Satchel Paige is supposed to have remarked, “There are some people that if they don’t know, you can’t tell them.”

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https://disaffectedmusings.files.wordpress.com/2019/02/d7d57-packard-twelve-sport-coupe-dietrich-1933.jpg?w=1288&h=966

From retrokimmer.com a picture of a stunning 1933 or 1934 Packard Twelve with coachwork by Dietrich. Maybe 56packardman can help us out here.

 

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Frugal Friday

At today’s end an eighth of 2019 will already be gone. Carpe Diem!

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From today’s Friday Funnies by 56packardman:

gas $1.39

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Reader “David Banner” suggested writing about collector cars for “the average Joe/Jill.” I think that’s a good idea although defining “average” and “collector car” is subjective.

Today’s selections are from Hemmings and, as such, the listings belong to them. As today’s Frugal Friday is the first I am kind of winging it. If I continue the feature I will probably not rely solely on Hemmings.

For today I chose cars listed at between $9,000 and $10,000, inclusive, and cars that were made between 1989 and 2004. The criteria are arbitrary, I admit. That reminds of me what I used to say about salary arbitration in baseball. Salary arbitration is well-named because the results are completely arbitrary. I also only included cars sold at US dealers and not by individuals as well as including only those ads with photos. I will try to avoid cars about which I have written before, but it is inevitable that some of them will be included. Without further ado:

Here is a 1991 Chevrolet Camaro RS:

It’s in Red Metallic over Gray and has only 56,000-ish miles. It’s not an overly powerful car; the engine is a 305 cubic-inch V-8 rated at 170 HP/255 LB-FT of torque, which is not a high output for a 3,300 pound car. It has a 4-speed automatic transmission. The asking price is $9,500.

About 101,000 Camaros were produced for the 1991 model year. I think if you want a nice driver with a little flair for not a lot of money you could do a lot worse than this car. ALL used cars come with risk.

 

A Jaguar for under $10,000?! Yep…

This gorgeous burgundy over beige 2001 Jaguar XK-8 coupe with about 56,000 miles is listed for $9,900. My wonderful wife had an XK-8 convertible and it was not without its issues, but they are beautiful cars and are nice GT cruisers. Bill Stephens, one of the hosts of Mecum Auto Auctions on NBCSN, has an XK-8 about which he speaks very highly.

This car has a 4-liter (244 cubic inches for the aforementioned Bill Stephens) V-8 engine rated at 290 HP/290 LB-FT of torque. The XK-8 has a five-speed automatic transmission. Even if you had to put $2,000-$4,000 into the car after purchase, you would still have a Jaguar that cost you less than $15,000.

Please let me know what you thought of the first Frugal Friday post.

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Had to include a link to this CNBC article about Charlie Munger, Vice-Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. The title is, “Charlie Munger says California, Connecticut have been ‘stupid’ for driving rich people away.”

 

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Throwback Thursday

As regular readers of Disaffected Musings know I am not a big FoMoCo fan. I simply cannot completely divorce the company from its founder. That being said something I saw/read this morning in History of the American Auto by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide® gave me the idea for this week’s throwback post.

 

https://i0.wp.com/www.curbsideclassic.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/ford-thunderbird-1955.jpg

From curbsideclassic.com a picture of a 1955 Ford Thunderbird.

 

https://i0.wp.com/dealeraccelerate-all.s3.amazonaws.com/fastlane/images/1/4/1/4/1414/45898_32ec7a6edbc5t106ogrs8.jpg

From fastlanecars.com a picture of a 1995 Ford Thunderbird. History of the American Auto has a picture of both cars shown together and the caption shows statistics for both, such as:

1955: Two seats, 2,980 pound curb weight, 16,155 sales

1995: Five seats, 3,536 pounds, 104,254 sales

According to another book by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide®, Encyclopedia of American Cars, 1995 production totaled 115,165. Whatever the actual 1995 number, many more of them were sold than of the 1955 model.

Thunderbird production declined from there and the car was discontinued after the 1997 model year only to be re-booted for its 11th and probably final generation in 2002. However, 1997 production was not substantially different from that of 1991 or 1992, it’s just that sales/production spiked from 1993 to 1995. Human beings seldom judge the world based solely on objective reality, but against expectations and the status quo.

The “Baby Birds” have become classics, but I like the looks of these mid-1990s Thunderbirds. Although the Super Coupe edition was available with a supercharged 232 cubic-inch V-6 rated at 230 HP/330 LB-FT of torque, for a 3,500+ pound car that output is still a little weak, in my opinion. The base engines had even less power.

As written before, Ford is basically a non-car company so unless it commits heresy and uses the Thunderbird name for an SUV or pickup truck, we will probably never see that name on a vehicle again. At present, Hemmings only has two 1993-97 Thunderbirds listed for sale, but has three bizarro 1990s/1950s Thunderbird mashup cars. The two original cars are both listed for about $11,000.

I’m reasonably sure I know what C/2 thinks, but what about the rest of you? Are any of you saddened by the loss of iconic automobile makes and models? If you could bring back one car model name, what would it be and what type of car would it be?

 

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Goodbye Again To A Friend I Never Met

Two years ago today my friend Richard Segal died. He and Larry Lucchino, President/CEO of the two baseball teams that employed me in a full-time capacity, were college classmates. Lucchino hired Segal to work for those teams. (Actually, the teams made an annual “contribution” to the National Foundation on Counseling, Richard’s endeavor.)

Besides providing counseling for employees one of Richard’s tasks was to interview, over the phone, five or six players that the team was considering selecting in the first round of the amateur draft. His assessments were spot-on. One year the team ignored his evaluation of a player and selected him in the first round. Richard had warned us that this player was incapable of admitting mistakes and was un-coachable. Only the most gifted of players can possibly succeed with those traits and this player was not in that category. Of course, on that basis alone he probably should not have been picked in the first round, but that’s another story.

Richard’s assessment was absolutely correct. When this player failed he refused to take responsibility and refused to accept coaching that might have led to his improving. He never advanced beyond Class A, which is three levels below the major leagues.

Even after I resigned from the Padres Richard would still talk to me about life and provide sage advice. Two or three years after my resignation, when my attitude towards Larry Lucchino reached an all-time low, I cut myself off from him and from everyone in his orbit including Richard Segal. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face…as was his way when I called him two or three years later he graciously spoke to me although he did ask me about my actions. Yes, Richard Segal and I never met. He preferred counseling people over the phone. I could offer theories about the reasons why, but I would just be guessing. (Larry Lucchino and I have since buried the hatchet, and not in each other’s skulls, but we have still not spoken voice-to-voice in almost 20 years.)

Understandably, Richard was devastated by the death of his wife from cancer. I think that shortened his life as he was only in his early 70s when he passed away. I believe that for a male in the US the life expectancy at age 65 is 18 years.

I miss Richard’s intelligence and gentle nature. The fact that I will never speak to him again is unsettling.

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Life goes on…sometimes it doesn’t.

 

 

From autoevolution.com a picture of the Maserati Alfieri. Maserati showed this car as a seemingly near production ready “concept” in 2014, but the introduction hit delay after delay. It seems as though there is light at the end of the tunnel, after all, as production is slated to begin in 2020.

Don’t expect some snarling Ferrari-sourced V8 as the powerplant. The Alfieri is going to be an electric car. Maserati is going all in on EVs. How that will play with their potential buyers remains to be seen. The Alfieri sure is beautiful, though.

Anyone want to offer their thoughts on the Alfieri and the electrification of automobiles? Not surprisingly, I think such choices should be left to the market and not dictated by governments. Let me quickly add that I think the move is being largely dictated by what companies think their customers will want in the future.

 

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Even A Blind Squirrel…

Finds An Acorn Once In Awhile…So goes a saying. An aside: I loathe squirrels. I consider them to be rats with better PR.

Just as I believe that virtually everything is a tradeoff I believe that no one is right or wrong all the time. That is part of my reason for rejecting blind adherence to ideology.

In general, I believe in individual freedom, individual responsibility and individual accountability. I think all of these must be practiced together. Unconstrained freedom is not freedom, it’s anarchy. I also believe that people should not expect strangers to provide them with a comfortable life without any effort.

That being said, I reject most/many of the policy tenets of US conservatives. For example, and as I have written before, I do not believe that tax cuts are a panacea and I do not believe in a flat tax. I do not believe in confiscatory taxation, either; that is, I don’t think that government should ever take half or more of a person’s/family’s marginal income no matter how high it is, but I think tax rates don’t need to be reduced anymore. I also think that spending more on defense than the next 7 or 8 or 9 countries COMBINED is simply imprudent.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I honestly believe that the ideological divide in the US is intractable and will lead to the dissolution of the country as we know it. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

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I fully understand how people end up with multiple cars, even adjusting for my ADD/OCD affected brain. I watched an episode of Chasing Classic Cars this morning for the third or fourth time where Wayne Carini takes six or seven cars to the annual Auburn spring sale auction. One of those cars was a 1967 Cadillac Eldorado, like this:

 

https://ccpublic.blob.core.windows.net/cc-temp/listing/94/604/5806904-1967-cadillac-eldorado-std-c.jpg

(Photo from classiccars.com)

I am very fond of these cars for many reasons and as I am watching the show this morning I start to think, “Hmm, maybe I should buy one of these instead of the 2016 Z06. Maybe I should buy one of these AND the 2016 Z06.” Barring a lottery win I am not going to buy multiple cars at this stage of my life, but I would sure like to do so. You know…one car for driving fast, one car for cruising in style, one rare car for turning heads…

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In yesterday’s post I asked the following question: If you have a preference, about what would you rather read, Studebaker/Packard, Corvettes, or something else? I have not received a single answer. If you want to tell me without having it posted in the blog, you can use the Contact form to convey your thoughts. As written in About, I welcome thoughtful comments as a dialogue is almost always better than a monologue.

 

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Monday Musings

As you ponder this picture of our family room table:

 

And as we all ponder this beautiful, but cold picture from this morning:

Please consider this question:

If you have a preference, about what would you rather read, Studebaker/Packard, Corvettes, or something else? In the meantime:

 

From cargurus.com a picture of the type of car I am very likely to buy this year, a 2016 Corvette Z06 with the 8L90E automatic transmission. The caption is incorrect, by the way. The second trim level on the Z06 is 2LZ, not 2LT.

What does this figure represent? $54,234,000…OK, no way you could know. That’s the gross amount GM/Chevrolet earned for the 2016 model year by making the manual transmission standard and charging for the automatic. Of the 40,689 Corvettes sold in 2016, 31,440 (77%) were sold with an automatic transmission. As a $1,725 option that generates the $54,234,000 figure.

The fact that it took GM/Chevrolet so long to charge for the automatic actually doesn’t speak well for the company. For the C5 the automatic was standard and for the entire run 68% of C5 Corvettes were equipped with automatics. According to The Genuine Corvette Black Book, the automatic was not made an option with a price until the second year of the C6, 2006. What the manual transmission zealots don’t realize (or don’t want to acknowledge) is that the automatic has been the majority of Corvettes sold every year since 1972.

OK, why 2016? It will cost less than a 2017 or newer model and if I buy a 2016 car with a high enough VIN it shouldn’t be plagued by the torque converter issues that affected many early 8L90E cars. My wonderful wife’s 2015 Corvette was so affected and the torque converter was replaced in 2017. Yes, that was a warrantied repair, but it’s still a hassle.

I am hoping I can find an orange car, but only 251 2016 Z06 coupes came in Daytona Sunrise Orange. Between Long Beach Red and Torch Red (the car pictured is Torch Red), 2,372 Z06 coupes were built. I have eliminated a convertible because I just don’t think soft-tops are safe although the Z06 ragtop looks awesome, in my opinion, with the top down.

Anyone have any thoughts they’d like to share? I would very much like to read them and so would other Disaffected Musings readers.

 

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Odds and Ends

No, that is not the name of the shared practice of a psychiatrist and a proctologist…

 

My 1969 Topps Frank Robinson baseball card. I collected baseball cards when I was young and had all or virtually all of the 1969 Topps set, but this card does not come from that collection. Unfortunately, my original set was ruined by Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972 as the cards were in a box in a basement closet that was the only part of the house that saw significant water ingress.

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What was the Motor Trend car of the year fifty years ago? How about this?

 

https://i2.wp.com/st.hotrod.com/uploads/sites/21/2015/04/1969-plymouth-road-runner-front-passenger-side2.jpg

From hotrods.com a picture of a 1969 Plymouth Road Runner. The Road Runner, introduced in 1968, was the Chrysler Corporation effort at bringing an affordable muscle car to the market.

What’s a little odd about the announcement of the Car of the Year for 1969 is that the article talked a lot about how the car market had changed so much since the inception of the award in 1951. Here, see for yourself:

 

“How do we choose the Car of the Year? In 1951, when Motor Trend originated the award, selection was relatively easy because the American automobile industry was structured rather simply. When you talked of Ford, for instance, there was Standard or Deluxe trim in two-door, four-door, convertible, and station wagon body styles. The engine was 100 hp V-8 or 95 hp six and you had your choice of three-speed standard transmission or the just-introduced Fordomatic. The option list consisted of radio, heater and white sidewalls.

Now look at Ford for 1969 Galaxie, Fairlane, Mustang, Falcon, Thunderbird and the models of each size car run on forever. Engines: 428, 427, 390, 351, 302, and so forth. Transmission: Three-speed, four-speed, close-ratio four-speed automatic, and all connected to a wide selection of axle ratios. Options: radio, power steering, power brakes, air conditioning, and on and on. in short, the simple car of eighteen years ago has become a very sophisticated piece of machinery. in 1951, Cadillac was a far step above Ford, but today Fords LTD not only challenges Cadillac in ride and quality but comes very close to matching the price when fully loaded.”

 

The Road Runner was available with the legendary 426 Hemi, the Elephant, for 1969, but the base engine was the 383 cubic-inch 4-barrel rated at 335 HP/425 LB-FT of torque. About 82,000 Road Runners were built in 1969; about 2,000 of those were convertibles. The car was available with either a four-speed manual or three-speed Torqueflite automatic.

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If I wrote this on Twitter I would probably receive a visit from the Secret Service. I might, anyway.

To those politicians who want to enact confiscatory taxation regimes in order to fund government boondoggles and to remove the incentive for people to be productive:

Keep your hands out of our pockets or we will cut off your hands.

 

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