A Or B, O-Kei

First…when the damn virus became the front-page news every day I was determined not to let it take over my blog. I wanted this space to be a refuge from the unrelentingly bad news.

While I have little doubt that the MSM has over-reported the negative and under-reported the positive, this damn virus has been a scourge of scourges. That’s why the news that the UK has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine for use is worth mentioning. The U.K. government is the first in the world to formally approve the U.S.-German vaccine for widespread use; that approval means Britain will be one of the first countries to begin vaccinating its population.

The FDA will not be formally considering Pfizer’s and Moderna’s applications for emergency use authorization until next week. The US does not do everything better than every other country in the world. It is true, though, that 60% of all new pharmaceuticals come from the US. That wouldn’t happen under a government scheme of price controls and other constraints.

Let’s hope the recent Goldman Sachs report on a vaccination timeline is at least close to right. This report, based a combination of supply assessments (using data from leading vaccine developers) and demand using consumer survey data, estimates that half the population of the US and Canada will be vaccinated by the end of April. This report did predict that the UK would reach the 50% threshold before the US and Canada (by the end of March).

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Yes, I love Corvettes and first-generation Buick Rivieras and the DeTomaso Longchamp and Aston Martins, etc. Like many automobile enthusiasts, I am a big fan of high-performance cars with great styling.

However, I have a thing for small cars. While I do not like the SmartCar, I think the Scion iQ was a handsome little car (picture from Auto Evolution).

 

See the source image

 

Today’s A Or B post was inspired by an episode of Everyday Driver. In this episode Todd Deeken and Paul Schmucker drive an Autozam AZ-1 (manufactured by Mazda) and a Suzuki Cappuccino–Kei cars–in the streets of Seattle.

It was actually kind of funny to watch the 6-foot-3 Deeken try to wedge himself into these Kei cars. In case you don’t know, or even if you do, the Kei car category was created by the Japanese government in 1949, and the regulations have been revised several times since. These regulations specify a maximum vehicle size, engine capacity, and power output, so that owners may enjoy both tax and insurance benefits. I believe the current regulations are that to qualify as a Kei car, and so the owner can receive the tax/insurance benefits, the car cannot be more than 11 feet long, more than 5 feet wide and the engine cannot have a displacement of more than 660 cc, which is 40 cubic inches.

These cars have been enormously popular in Japan, at times reaching a 40% market share. Not surprisingly, when the Japanese government raised the Kei-car tax by 50% in 2014, sales of the cars declined. The people who think taxes don’t matter so government can make them as high as they want should have operations to have their heads removed from their rectums. <end soapbox>

As one of the hosts said (I think it was Paul Schmucker), not all cars are world cars that can be sold in every market. As the facts that more than 70% of American adults are overweight and one-third are obese are a major driver in the move away from cars and towards SUVs and pickup trucks, only a very small percentage of Americans could drive these cars comfortably.

The top photo of an Autozam AZ-1 (without its gull-wing doors open) is from Import a Vehicle. The bottom photo of a Suzuki Cappuccino is from Wikipedia.

 

See the source image

See the source image

 

I believe both cars use the same Suzuki engine: a turbocharged, 3-cylinder engine of 657 cc displacement (40 cubic inches) that produces 63 HP/63 LB-FT of torque.

OK, maybe this is an extremely idiosyncratic manifestation of my “enthusiasm” for cars, but I like what I like. What can I say? Besides, where else can you read about Maseratis one day and Kei cars the next?

Kind people, please choose between the Autozam AZ-1 and the Suzuki Cappuccino. Thanks.

 

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A Or B 2

First…from here comes the “news” that the FDA has asked a group of advisors to set aside December 8-10 to participate in meetings to discuss COVID vaccines. The meetings would be a key step in the agency’s emergency authorization process. If emergency use is approved next month that would represent the fastest vaccine development in history, by far. Maybe I’m out of my lane, but I think the ability to sequence the virus genome must have played a role in the speed of development AND will continue to revolutionize future vaccine research.

Second…from here comes the news that the FAA has cleared the Boeing 737 Max to fly after the planes were grounded for 20 months. Boeing has made the automated flight control system “less aggressive” and added more redundancies.

Yes, I rely on CNBC for my news. I don’t trust CNN and I don’t trust Fox News. I know I’m in the minority among Americans who seek news.

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OK, after a long hiatus A Or B returns. Use whatever criteria you want to choose between these two cars that, in this case, have a lot in common.

 

See the source image

See the source image

 

The top picture of a 1935 Auburn Speedster 851 is from Mecum and the bottom picture of a 1937 Cord 812 is from Top Speed. Obviously, I chose photos that showed the most famous views of the cars.

Both cars represent the agony and the ecstasy of the Cord Corporation. Both exteriors were designed by the legendary Gordon Buehrig.

Do you care about specs? To me, these cars are more rolling sculpture than engineering marvels and, besides, cars from the 1930s cannot compare in any way to modern cars in terms of performance and reliability. OK…the highest output Auburn engine for 1935 was a 280 cubic-inch, supercharged inline-8, made by aircraft company Lycoming, that produced 150 HP, but probably had more torque than 150 LB-FT given its old-fashioned undersquare (bore < stroke) layout. The ’37 Cord had a 289 cubic-inch V-8 made by Lycoming, which in its highest supercharged spec made 190 HP.

From what is my most valuable book, Encyclopedia of American Cars by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide®, comes this passage:

 

“Perhaps to avoid a brewing scandal over his management of these enterprises [Duesenberg, Cord, Lycoming, Ansted Engines, etc.], Cord fled to England in 1934 and promptly dropped from sight…Like a prodigal son, E.L. Cord returned from England in 1936 to salvage his crumbling empire, only to find the IRS and the Securities and Exchange Commission ready to launch major investigations of his doings.”

 

Cord’s automotive empire collapsed shortly thereafter and he sold what was left of his corporation in 1937. Of course, he later made millions in real estate and in uranium mines. He also became a US Senator from Nevada, which is where he moved after he sold his company.

I think Elon Musk represents the spirit of people like E.L. Cord and Preston Tucker. Of course, the automobile business is one that requires huge capital investment to succeed in any meaningful way. The sheer size has taken some of the romance away.

OK…1935 Auburn 851 Speedster or 1937 Cord 812? Please let me know which car you prefer and, if you are so inclined, why. Thanks.

 

#AOrB

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#1935Auburn851Speedster

#1937Cord812

#ErrettLobbanCord

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