Threes And Sevens Finale: 1997

OK, a dream first: I dreamt I was watching a football team practice. I think it was an NFL team, but it could have been college. At some point, though, it seemed as if I was participating in the practice, although I’m not sure if I was dreaming (within the dream) about practicing or actually practicing. I remember making a great diving catch and that the ball seemed to be moving more slowly the closer it got to me.

Also, the word “CHECKSUM” was of great significance during the practice. From Wikipedia; “A checksum is a small-sized block of data derived from another block of digital data for the purpose of detecting errors that may have been introduced during its transmission or storage. By themselves, checksums are often used to verify data integrity but are not relied upon to verify data authenticity.”

I used to do some computer programming, but that was a long time ago and I never used or wrote any checksum algorithms. Why “CHECKSUM” was in the dream is beyond me, like many things in my life.


So, we have reached the end of the Threes And Sevens series. When I began I knew that 1997 would be the last featured year because the 21st century has not been about cars, it’s been about non-cars like pickup trucks and SUVs. As every regular reader knows, I am not interested in those vehicles.

This last Threes And Sevens post will be more freeform than the others. I will offer that I have written elsewhere that 1997 was the first year that non-cars comprised more than half the new vehicles sold in the US. However, if The American Auto by the Auto Editors of Consumer GuideĀ® is correct, then the share of non-cars in the new vehicle market was about 45 percent in 1997, not 50+ percent. Still, it is true that 1996 (yes, not 1997) was the first year that The Big Three sold more non-cars than cars, 5.7 million versus 5.3 million.

Speaking of market share, Japanese automobile manufacturers captured 23.5% of the US market; European companies had 3.8 percent. Both of those figures were increases from 1996. General Motors and Ford market shares were the same (31.1 percent and 25.2 percent, respectively), but Chrysler’s share fell from 16.2 percent to 15.2 percent.

Even though GM and Ford saw no meaningful increase in total sales, their profits rose sharply year over year. Ford’s net earnings rose 58 percent while GM’s increased 19 percent. The significant increase in truck sales, which have higher profit margins than car sales, was a major factor. Non-cars were 41 percent of the market just two years earlier. In a large market like the US market for vehicles, an increase in market share of four percentage points in two years is meaningful.

Ford was the only US make to reach seven figures in 1997 sales. The Taurus was, once again, Ford’s best-seller reaching nearly 400,000 units; 398,802 were produced for the 1997 model year. Do you want to see a picture of a 1997 Taurus? OK…


See the source image


Closer to my life, 1997 was the first model year for the fifth generation Corvette or C5. This generation Vette really was brand new. It featured an all-new engine, the aluminum LS1. A first for the Corvette was a transaxle, which was located at the rear wheels so the car would have a 50-50 front-rear weight distribution. The transaxle was retained for the C6 and C7 generations, which were built for 15 model years, meaning the transaxle was used for a total of 23 model years.

The C5 had virtually all new components for the interior, exterior and suspension. Not surprisingly, with such a radical change production hiccups limited the number manufactured to fewer than 10,000 and meant convertibles were not available for 1997. Let’s hope this picture link doesn’t break.



This is a 1997 Corvette in Fairway Green Metallic, which was the least used exterior color and comprised only about 1.5 percent of 1997 Vettes. In the back of my mind–OK, maybe not so far back–I really want to own a green car. I just like the look of the color on a car. When I imagine my “ultimate” Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk, it’s painted in British Racing Green or Limerock Green (from the 2014 Corvette) with a cream top. For the nth to the n time and from the movie Diner, if you don’t have dreams you have nightmares. My dreams are sure as hell no walk in the park, anyway.

I hope you have enjoyed Threes And Sevens. It will probably be the last “focused” post series in this blog. The Hall of Very Good Cars posts are not as well defined as those from Threes And Sevens or Cars: A To Z. As always, please feel free to send thoughtful comments. Thanks.







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Frugal Friday, Idiosyncratic Edition

As I have written often, virtually nothing in life is all good or bad. Virtually everything is a trade-off. (By the way, this is going to be a very long post.)

Not being highly scrutinized by outsiders (a euphemism for not having thousands or tens of thousands of daily readers) means I have almost complete freedom to write what I want. In that way I can indulge my highly idiosyncratic nature.


Many people, especially those of a certain ideological bent, are highly critical of publicly traded companies buying back their stock. They think it is a “waste” of resources, but also that it distorts the stock prices of those companies by artificially inflating their Earnings/Share ratio through decreasing the number of shares in the float, the total available pool of shares.

If that were the case, then one might conclude that the stock price of companies that buy back their stock would perform better than those that don’t engage in buybacks, ceterus paribus. From the insightful Mike Santoli of CNBC comes these facts:

In the last five years the S&P 500 has seen a 49.7% increase.

In the last five years the SPDR Buyback ETF (SPTB) has increased by…35.4%.

OK, maybe something idiosyncratic about SPTB, its sector-weighting perhaps, means it’s not fully representative of “buyback” stocks.

In the last five years the Invesco Buyback Acheivers ETF (PKW) has increased by…38.5%.

If a company’s float is reduced by 10% through buybacks, but the company’s earnings (profits) decrease by 20% what happens to the Earnings Per Share (EPS) ratio? A company’s stock price is, to a large extent, an estimate of the future value of its EPS adjusted somewhat for dividends.

Would I like to see companies spend more on capital investment and less on buybacks? Probably, but it’s not up to me. It’s also not clear that buying the stock of companies who buy back a lot of their stock is a good investment strategy, anyway. The reason for investing is to make money.


Today’s selection of Frugal Friday cars started with an impossibly large search on Hemmings and then morphed into something idiosyncratic and personal. I began by looking at cars from model year 1956 through model year 2005! The only filtering was that I looked solely at US cars and cars with listed prices and photos. I then sorted by price from lowest to highest. This car caught my eye:



From this ad a picture of a 1993 Pontiac Grand Prix. This car is in Blue over Gray cloth and has about 82,000 miles. The seller is asking $2,750.

When I moved to California and was unable to buy a Buick Reatta I wandered the showroom of the Buick/Pontiac/GMC dealer until I saw a 1995 Grand Prix. I was really taken by the styling. I didn’t know it at the time, but this would be the car I owned the longest (at least as of now) and the first car I would own in two states as I took it to Texas when my wonderful wife and I moved there. When I bought the Grand Prix I had not even met my wife.

I also didn’t know at the time that I would soon be promoted to Director of Baseball Operations and be placed in charge of one of my pet projects, a department devoted solely to scouting the minor leagues. I won’t bore you with details, but I believe this has now become standard operating procedure for major league baseball organizations. I also had no inkling that as head of a department I would be able to receive a car allowance on top of my not-small salary.

The car I bought to replace the ’95 Grand Prix was this one:



This is a 2002 Corvette that I purchased used from Corvettes of Dallas in 2004. I think the business now operates under a different name. The ’02 was my first Vette and I had no idea at the time that I would become totally hooked on them and would, eventually, end up owning (at least) three Corvettes. From paintref.coma picture of a 2004 Corvette coupe:

See the source image



Talk about an iconic car, it’s a little red Corvette. 2004 was the last model year of the C5 Corvette. The original particular example from Hemmings was in Red (OK, Burgundy) over Black and had about 101,000 miles. The asking price? $10,900…it was not the least expensive car in the search, either.

C5 (and C4) Corvettes are incredibly affordable. Of course, the C5 almost didn’t happen…a long section from Steve Magnante’s 1001 Corvette Facts:


“Planning for the C5 began in 1988, a full nine years before the finished car hit dealerships…when planning began the goal was to unveil the new model for 1993, just in time for the Corvette’s 40th anniversary. However, in May 1989 a cut in the GM engineering budget delayed the release until 1994. Then in August 1989, General Motors pushed back the release date to the 1995 model year. In October 1990, the release was further rescheduled for 1996. Hiccups along the way included the fall 1992 retirements of chief engineer Dave McLellan and stylist Chuck Jordan…while General Motors posted a record $4.86 billion profit for 1988, four years later it lost a staggering $24.2 billion. Through it all, certain factions in GM management viewed the ultralow-volume Corvette as an unnecessary frill and lobbied for its termination.”


So, not only was the Corvette almost killed after the 1955 model year it was almost terminated in the 1990s. Who knows? After the 2008 recession calls for the end of the Vette may have grown quite loud at GM.

Getting back to Frugal Friday…my search on Hemmings for 2000-2004 Corvettes (US only, only with photos and listed prices) yielded about 50 with an asking price of less than $20,000. When the average “transaction” price for a new US vehicle has reached nearly $40,000 don’t you think spending half of that on a Corvette is a great option if you don’t have kids?

Even though I have written a lot today I want to continue, but I will stop here. Please feel free to post thoughtful comments. Thanks for reading.










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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. However, Econ 101 or its equivalent should be taught in high school, if not earlier.


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 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 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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