Munday Mosings

For the fifth post with this title…my wonderful wife asked our server, “Is the beef for the taco salad spicy?” He replied, “No, it’s not spicy at all.” He either lied or was misinformed; the beef in my taco salad that was yesterday’s lunch was spicy.

I realize that eating at a “Mexican” restaurant carries the risk–for me–of spicy food, of the vile weed cilantro being used in many dishes. Still, when the server replies that an item is not spicy that should be good enough.

My GI tract has been unhappy since lunch yesterday. Perhaps I should have sent the item back after the first bite, but figured the sour cream would at least partly mitigate the spiciness. In terms of mouth feel it did, but the sour cream didn’t fool my stomach.

I recognize, of course, that here in Arizona the Latin American influence in food is significant. I also know that, in general, American restaurants have been making their food spicier for a long time.

My first experience with this was while I was working for the Baltimore Orioles. Not far from Memorial Stadium was a grocery store, with which I shared a name, that also made sandwiches and other “prepared” food items. Every Thursday was taco salad day.

I went almost every Thursday, either with friends or by myself. One Thursday the sauce that one could pour over the salad was much spicier than it had been previously. Of course, I didn’t know that until I had returned to the stadium. I ate very little of the salad that day.

Figuring that experience was an aberration, I dutifully returned the following Thursday for taco salad day. Much to my chagrin, the sauce was very spicy once again. I asked someone at the store about the taco salad sauce and they said they had recently changed the recipe. I never ate the taco salad again.

If you like spicy food, then by all means eat it. DON’T assume that everyone else likes it or should like it. Using Pareto as a guide, I would estimate that about 20% of Americans don’t like and/or can’t tolerate spicy food. Tyranny of the majority is still tyranny. OK, maybe tyranny is too strong a word in this context, but those of us in the 20% should still be able to dine out.

******************

Speaking of the Baltimore Orioles, for whom I worked from 1988 to 1994:

 

 

These are the first two pages of the annual statement for the pension plan that pays me every month and has since August, 2015. I also receive this statement from the San Diego Padres. Yes, I find it odd that for 2019 and 2020 the funding target attainment percentage was 100% while last year’s was 107%.

I could not live on my pension alone, but it’s a nice income supplement. As to why I started receiving it almost as soon as I was eligible, I spent months calculating the Net Present Value (NPV) of the pension stream at age 55–the first age I could begin collecting–and assuming I live to 80 using all sorts of fixed and variable discount rate models. The NPV hardly varied regardless of when I would start receiving the pension. As I have recounted, I decided to begin collecting on the day that most closely matched my last day as a full-time baseball operations employee and that I wanted to make MLB make nearly as many payments to me as possible until they put me in the ground or in an urn.

******************

I am reluctant to make generalizations, but I strongly suspect that many wives would ask, “Why do you need another car?” or “Why don’t we have just one car?” if their husband indicated he wanted to buy a car and a less than practical one, at that. My wonderful wife, however, is encouraging me to buy one and even suggested one I had sort of dismissed.

 

See the source image

 

From Mecum Auctions a picture of a 2007 Cadillac XLR offered at their Houston event in 2019. I must admit that I was in awe of the looks of this car from the first time I saw one at the annual Dallas Auto Show.

I was put off by the price, which is why I bought my second Corvette in February, 2007 instead of an XLR. While they’re not really cheap used, I can almost certainly buy one in the $25,000 range.

With my Z06 still in the shop, having only one car at our disposal has been an inconvenience. As for a grocery car/taxi being more practical, the number of days in a year when we might want to “carry” passengers is in single digits and, believe it or not, the Z06 is more than adequate as a grocery car especially considering we buy a lot of our groceries on Amazon.

My wife is wonderful, indeed.

 

#MundayMosings

#IHATESpicyFood

#MLBPension

#MyWonderfulWife

#CadillacXLR

#somanyCARSjustonelife

#disaffectedmusings

If you like this blog please tell your friends and share the blog URL (https://disaffectedmusings.com). Thanks.

 

Fractured Friday

In my opinion…unlimited freedom, especially in the context of a country or a society, is not freedom. It’s anarchy. You don’t have to like your neighbors; you don’t even have to care about your neighbors. However, you do NOT have the right to risk the health of others through what I can only describe as willful negligence. Yes, that phrase sounds like an oxymoron like “current American music.”

We are all suffering from coronavirus fatigue and we all want to be back to normal as soon as possible. However, the timetable is not up to us and it’s not up to government, either. The virus and the pharmaceutical companies will determine the course of events.

******************

Yesterday I had a long (two hours) and very enjoyable conversation with my long-time friend, Mel Kiper. Believe it or not, most of the conversation was not about football. He and I have known each other for almost 30 years, but I think we both learned things about each other that we did not know before yesterday.

I really do know a fair number of famous people. Fame has eluded me, not that I have been actively seeking it. From our “hometown” newspaper, The Baltimore Sun, a picture of Mel.

 

See the source image

******************

I have not really written about this car in about three months and seeing one yesterday (or was it the day before yesterday?, time compression secondary to aging is no fun ☹️), in addition to receiving a listing for one in my daily email from Classic Cars, were the impetus I needed to show this car again.

Originally shown as the EVOQ concept at the 1999 Detroit Auto Show, the Cadillac XLR was the make’s second unsuccessful attempt to sell a two-seat roadster to compete with the Mercedes-Benz SL models. Success or not, I have thought these cars were simply stunning in design from the first time I saw one at an auto show. From the aforementioned Classic Cars a picture of a 2007 XLR-V (the “V” means the engine is supercharged):

 

See the source image

The XLR-V was powered by a supercharged 4.4 liter/267 cubic-inch V-8 that produced 443 HP/414 LB-FT of torque. The XLR was based on C6 Corvette architecture and was manufactured in the same Bowling Green, Kentucky factory that builds the Corvette.

Before I bought a used BMW Z4 in May of 2016 (was that really more than four years ago?!), I considered buying a used XLR. While at breakfast some time before I bought the Z4 I asked a friend, a “car guy,” if he knew anything about the XLR. I didn’t know he had owned two of them that he had purchased new and that BOTH of them were re-purchased by Cadillac under our state’s lemon law. One of his cars had been in the shop for 244 of 365 days. That was enough bad news for me. Of course, the Z4 hardly turned out to be a trouble-free car and I sold it after 29 months.

Maybe Cadillac thought it had to get the XLR to market as soon as possible although the car was not available for more than four years after the EVOQ was shown in Detroit. Just like with the Allanté, though, maybe just another year of refinement would have enabled the XLR to be released with far fewer issues. In all honesty, Cadillac overpriced the car and, in all honesty, the market for cars like this collapsed in the wake of the beginning of the “Great Recession” in 2008. The XLR was built from 2003 through 2009 although the first cars were sold as 2004 model year.

Initially projected to sell between 5,000 and 7,000 units per year only 15,460 were sold in total, including 200 leftover 2009 models sold new in 2010 and 2011. The most sold in a year was about 3,700 in 2005. Problems with the car became well known (welcome to the Internet age) and even though cars built from 2006 on are supposed to be quality vehicles, the damage was done and the “Financial Meltdown” was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I don’t think Cadillac will ever build another two-seat roadster, which is a shame in my opinion. I still think the make is the most logical builder of an American super-luxury car that I think could sell the number of units originally projected for the XLR. I don’t know how much it would cost to design and to tool for a new car. Maybe the car would have to be priced way too high to recoup those costs in a reasonable period of time. Then again, maybe such a car would be a “Giffen Good,” a product that contradicts the normal law of demand and is consumed more the more expensive it is. A really outstanding car could be such an exception.

For quite a long period of time, I really thought I would own an XLR someday. Who knows? Maybe I still will, warts and all. I’m talking about the car, I think.  🙂

 

#FracturedFriday

#MelKiper

#CadillacXLR

#GiffenGood

#somanycarsjustonelife

#disaffectedmusings

If you like this blog please tell your friends and share the blog URL (https://disaffectedmusings.com). Thanks.

 

Mega Millions Fever

As many/most of you reading know no winning ticket was sold for the most recent Mega Millions drawing. As of this writing, the annuity value of the jackpot is $1.6 billion and the cash value is over $900 million. Given the enormous number of tickets that will be sold before the next drawing those values will increase. I believe this is already the largest jackpot in US lottery history.

I would rather have a 1-in-300 million chance of winning than a 0-in-300 million chance, which is why my wonderful wife and I buy lottery tickets most weeks of the year. Once again, I ponder which cars I might buy if we somehow won this extraordinary amount of money.

Yes, my wonderful wife and I would make sure our family and close friends never had to worry about money again. Yes, we would donate lots of money to charity. Still, for me an unimaginable windfall means CARS!

I haven’t driven a vehicle with a manual transmission in 40 years and reject the “knee-jerk macho” attitude that no one can really enjoy driving a car with an automatic transmission. All that being said, one of these might find its way into my possession after a lottery win:

See the source image

From rarecarsforsaleblog.com a picture of one of my all-time favorites, a Honda S2000 in Imola Orange. I wrote about this car in this post in which I revealed the inside joke about the S2000 that my wonderful wife and I share. Although they are not a common sight 66,000 S2000s were sold in the US and we occasionally see one. When we do I always say, “Did you know that I love these cars?” and she answers, “Really? I had no idea.”

I think the S2000 is almost a perfect blend of styling, performance and aura. I have a soft spot for two-seat roadsters, anyway. All 110,000 of these cars were made with a manual transmission. I guess I would have to reacquaint myself with manuals if we were to win the Mega Millions and I decided to buy an S2000. Oh darn…

******************

While I am not certain if the actual date was today (October 20th) or October 17th, it was around this time in 1902 that the first Cadillac was built. I wrote about Cadillac in this post in which I detailed how they, in 1908, became the first American company to win the prestigious Dewar Trophy and that it was awarded its second Dewar Trophy just four years later.

At least three Cadillacs would be serious contenders for Ultimate Garage 2.0. I have shown pictures of them before, but what the hell…

See the source image

From momentcar.com a picture of a 1968 Cadillac Eldorado. I would be happy with a 1967 model, also. I think these cars look magnificent and had amazing performance for their size. I might, emphasize might, prefer the ’68 because the engine was larger and had more power.

 

See the source image

From classiccars.com a picture of a Cadillac Allante that I am almost certain I have shown before. I really like the wire wheels and the green exterior of this particular car. These cars are much maligned and much of that sentiment was “earned.” However, I think they are beautiful cars. How could they not be as the bodies were designed and built by Pininfarina? A later model with a more powerful engine or maybe even a more modern engine would make for a very nice car, in my opinion.

 

See the source image

From bestride.com a picture of a Cadillac XLR; this is another picture I have shown before. If I didn’t have a friend who had bad experiences with these cars, I probably would have purchased one instead of the Z4. (The Z4 may be an “ex car” by this time next week.) Again, like the Allante the XLR had major quality issues at first. By the time these were fixed the car’s reputation was permanently ruined and then the “Great Recession” was the last straw. I think the XLR has extraordinary looks and more than enough performance for the vast majority of drivers, especially in XLR-V trim.

Cadillac is experiencing an existential crisis. In 2005 Cadillac sales totaled about 235,000 and 1.4% of the US market. By 2015 those numbers had declined to 175,000 and 1.0%. In 2017 sales slumped further to 156,000 and 0.9%. The make is considered passé by younger consumers and the average age of a Cadillac buyer is almost 60. (Hey, I’m almost 60. Yeah, that’s the point.)

Maybe I’m way off base and out of touch with today’s automobile market, but just like I think Buick needs a halo car (I have suggested an improved version of the Solstice/Sky) I think Cadillac also needs a halo car, a vehicle to generate excitement and to help Cadillac stand apart. The company has shown some amazing concept cars and before the departure of Johan de Nysschen Cadillac announced it would be bringing the Escala to market as a production vehicle. Now, I don’t know.

What do you think? As always I eagerly await your comments. Once again I would very much like to “hear” from those north of the border in Canada.

#somanycarsjustonelife

#disaffectedmusings

Tuesday Medley

I couldn’t find a word beginning with “T” that meant the same as medley or miscellany. Alliteration thwarted!

Reader Maurice asked me if I could describe the process by which I chose my Z4, how it was funded, what parameters were met, etc. First, another picture of the car:

Yes, the picture is printed on something that could be used in a license plate frame. An aside: I am happy I live in a state that only requires a rear license plate. My wonderful wife’s 2015 Corvette would look strange with a plate stuck on the front.

OK, back to Maurice’s request. As much as I like the Z4, when I began looking for a car 6-9 months before I bought one the Z4 was not on my radar. I actually wanted to buy a car with an 8-cylinder, 10-cylinder or even 12-cylinder engine. The Z4 has an inline-6, although boosted to great power by twin turbochargers as well as after-market tuning by me and technicians once I had acquired the car. I wanted an automatic transmission (my views on auto vs. manual are well-known and have been written many times in this blog) and I wanted navigation. I also wanted a car whose looks greatly appealed to me.

While I was looking I began “diverting” funds to a savings account dedicated for the purchase. These funds came from savings that already existed, some sales of equity and fixed income holdings as well as income from my investment portfolio. I was going to pay cash for the car with some help from my wonderful wife. I haven’t had a car payment in 13 years; my wife has not had one for 16. I know most people do not have the resources to pay cash for a car, but borrowing money to buy a depreciating asset does not make sense to me.

Since I didn’t actually need a car I was somewhat of a reluctant shopper. While I COULD buy a car, technically I am a retired person on a pension so I was not 100% in on this endeavor. My compromise was that I was going to buy a used car. The last year a new Z4 was available the MSRP was $66,000. I paid a little more than a third of that amount for the car I eventually purchased. Why was I looking at all? Well, I thought a good-looking performance car would be at least a partial treatment for my malaise.

After a few months of “window shopping” I began test drives. One car that was initially on my list but was never test-driven was this:

See the source image

From cargurus.com a picture of a Cadillac XLR. I have always loved the way this car looks and even without the supercharger the V-8 engine gave the car credible performance. Why didn’t I drive one? A friend of mine told me that he had purchased two of them new and that both of them were re-purchased by Cadillac under our state’s lemon law. One of them had spent 244 days in the shop in one calendar year.

After test-driving some Mercedes-Benz products like the SL 500 and SL 550, I couldn’t pull the trigger. One of the Mercs had very bad brakes, which was a huge turnoff. My wonderful wife then said, “You like the Z4 so much, why don’t you look at one of those?”

Finding a second generation (2009 or later) Z4 with an automatic transmission and navigation AND that was not too expensive was difficult. The dealer where I bought my car was 70-80 miles from my house. My wife and I both drove the car and while it was obvious the car also needed brakes, at least in the front, it seemed to be in good shape. The car had just 42,000 miles on it, which for a seven-year old car is not a lot. After a little negotiating, I agreed to buy the car.

If you are a regular reader you know that the car has given me fits. It didn’t just need front brakes, it needed brakes all the way around. It needed four new tires, it needed rear wheels at $550 each. The rear wheels were actually cracked. The four buttons on the left side of the instrument cluster of the steering wheel didn’t work. Parts and labor for that job were over $600. I was so happy to have actually found a car that met my requirements I wasn’t as thorough as I should have been during the test drive. Also, I am convinced the previous owner did not take good care of the car and some of the manifestations of that were not obvious at first.

With all of the repairs in addition to the purchase price, I have still spent less than half of the MSRP for a new 2016 Z4. When the car is running and not leaking or sounding warning bells, it is ENORMOUSLY fun to drive. I also think it is one of the 10 or 12 best-looking cars ever.

I hope I haven’t bored you and that you’ve enjoyed my longest post so far. Please feel free to write about your experiences in buying/owning a car. Oh, I called the post “Tuesday Medley” because I was going to write about more than just the Z4. The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

Say it ain’t so!

https://carbuzz.com/news/why-a-ferrari-dino-will-sell-better-than-a-ferrari-suv

A well-written, well-researched piece about why Ferrari should not join the SUV parade but should introduce a modern Dino model. (However, as pointed out in the CarBuzz article, a Ferrari SUV seems inevitable.)

Exotic car companies are stuck between a rock and a hard place: trying to make exclusive cars AND trying to make enough profit to stay in business. In the US, the different CAFE standards for SUVs and small trucks dovetail nicely with the shift in the American market towards those kinds of vehicles (or maybe it has played a part, I don’t know). I am still hoping it’s not a permanent trend, but it could very well be. This trend is good for car companies as the profit margins on SUVs and pickup trucks are quite healthy.

As I wrote in connection with the piece on the Cadillac concept car (https://disaffectedmusings.com/2018/02/21/build-this-car/) I don’t understand how a wealthy country with a lot of empty nester families buys so many non-car vehicles. That’s one reason why this car didn’t sell.

See the source image

From cargurus.com a picture of a Cadillac XLR. A great concept and a beautiful car, but not great execution—at least, not at first—and bad timing/pricing for Cadillac. An aside: hey Cadillac, get rid of the three-letter model names!

If you like exciting cars, don’t just wish you had one; buy one if you can afford it. Otherwise, they won’t be available.