In Or Out? 11

First…the site of yesterday’s major explosion in Baltimore is a five-minute walk from the house in which I lived from the ages of 2 to 25. As the actual cause of the explosion has not yet been determined, and may not be determined for years, I will refrain from editorializing…well, at least too much.

In my opinion, this country has allowed its infrastructure to decay. In my opinion, the federal government’s obligation under the first clause of Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution to “provide…for the general Welfare of the United States” does not mean that it spend the excessively large (again, IMO) amount of $1.9 billion A DAY on defense and spend little on infrastructure. Remember that the federal government paid 90% of the cost of building the Interstate Highway System.

I think the “Left” is misguided and naive in calling for a massive reduction in defense spending–it’s a dangerous world–but even a 10% reduction would free up significant funds to be used for other worthy purposes and without raising taxes. I think the “Right” is hypocritical in calling for small government, but for huge defense expenditures. The United States spends more on defense than the amount spent by the next 7-9 countries COMBINED. The actual number of countries depends on the exact definition one uses for defense spending.

Even if the Baltimore explosion was caused by negligence of the property owner and/or the residents (I think the property was a rental), about one-third of the gas distribution mains for Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) and half of its transmission mains are more than 50 years old. You can’t just build it and forget about it.

Well, I guess I editorialized too much…if you can’t tell by now, I am not a political ideologue. I think both political parties in the US have lost the plot and that both of their policy platforms are rife with dangerous inconsistencies. I will once again offer the opinion that the US is headed for dissolution and maybe that won’t be a bad thing.

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Talk about switching gears…of the first ten In Or Out? cars, six were manufactured by non-US companies. I have to admit that I struggled to find a US car about which a consensus doesn’t already exist. From an MSN article about the most surprising cars ever sold in the US, a picture of today’s In Or Out? car, the Pontiac Fiero:

 

Slide 9 of 21: Pontiac developed the first mass-produced mid-engined car ever made by an American company. Called Fiero, it was envisioned as a smaller, cheaper and more efficient alternative to the Chevrolet Corvette and launched in 1983 as a 1984 model. Early examples weren’t as quick or as fun as they looked, and various problems made them prone to overheating and catching fire, but Pontiac fixed most of the Fiero’s issues for the 1988 model year.Sales unfortunately ended after 1988 and GM didn’t dare venture into mid-engined territory until Chevrolet unveiled the eighth-generation Corvette in 2019.

 

For many, the Fiero is a prime example of where General Motors lost its way in the 1970s and 1980s; some say it has never recovered. The Fiero, introduced for model year 1984, was the first US mid-engine production car and the first new US-built two-seater since the original Ford Thunderbird of 1955-57.

The car was actually conceived in 1978 in large part as a way to help GM meet CAFE standards, but without making something boring. The car was popular at first with sales of about 137,000 units in its first model year. From one of my favorite and most valuable books, Encyclopedia of American Cars by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide®:

 

“…But Fiero was flawed–heavy and sluggish with the standard 92 HP, 151 cubic-inch Iron Duke four, little faster with the optional 173 cubic-inch V-6; low, cramped, noisy and hard to see out of; hard to shift, stiff-riding, indifferently put together. As it had with the X-cars, GM shot itself in the foot by selling a car before it was fully developed.”

Those facts, combined with a recall having to do with engine fires and insurance companies greatly increasing premiums on two-seaters (that difference still exists today), meant that the Fiero was doomed and ultimately discontinued after the 1988 model year in which only about 26,000 Fieros were built. Of course, Pontiac had just spent a fortune for an all-new suspension that significantly improved handling on the ’88 Fieros. Exciting plans for a new engine and new lighter frame were left unused.

I fully understand why many GM bashers exist among car enthusiasts and the Fiero is one of the cars why the bashing exists. For an “agnostic” car person like me, the Fiero is a very frustrating car. I think it looks fantastic and with a mid-engine setup it could have been successful like the Toyota MR-2, which sold more than 300,000 units in 20+ years of production with the largest market being North America.

OK, kind folks…the Pontiac Fiero, In Or Out?

 

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In Or Out? 10

First…I had another dream in which I began a journey in a car, but did not finish it in one. I dreamt I was on a frantic trip to get from Point A to Point B, for reasons lost forever to dreamland. The road had many steep hills and sharp drops. At one point, the car warned me not to travel on a certain road, not because of road or weather conditions, but because of “political” reasons! I had intended to ignore the warning, but before I ever reached that road I found myself making the journey on foot as my car had just disappeared. I wasn’t even particularly surprised by the disappearance, just determined to reach my destination. However, I woke up before I finished my journey or reached the road I was supposed to avoid. WTF?!

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For this edition of In Or Out? I am waiving the five-vote minimum. The car shown and discussed today is one that is not likely to be familiar to most of you.

This car was featured on an Edd China episode of Wheeler Dealers as well as the newer, but less than scintillating spinoff, Wheeler Dealers: Dream Car. Beginning next year, it will be legal to import the first model year of this car into the US as production began in 1996. I present the TVR Cerbera:

 

See the source image

 

From Parkers of the UK a picture of the TVR Cerbera. TVR was founded in 1947 by Trevor Wilkinson (whose name was used to name the company) and Jack Pickard. Yes, it is a British car.

The company history is littered with liquidations and ownership changes. If you want to know more, you can read this. The Cerbera was significant in TVR history since it was the first car made by the company that:

1) Was not a convertible

2) Had four seats, all previous TVR models were two-seaters

3) Had an engine developed and manufactured by TVR

The Cerbera did not have traction control or ABS. It was also an extremely light car, especially given the power of the engine. The Wikipedia article about the Cerbera states that at some point in production the cars were available with an inline six-cylinder engine, but I had always heard that the cars were only available with TVR’s own flat-plane crank V-8. The final iteration of that V-8 (not including the “special” Speed Eight Red Rose) displaced 4.5 liters/273 cubic inches and produced 420 HP/380 LB-FT of torque without forced induction. The Cerbera only weighed about 2,600 pounds and with the most powerful engine could accelerate from 0-60 MPH in well under 4 seconds and, supposedly, be capable of speeds approaching 190 MPH.

I really like the “wild” styling of these cars. They have a chopped look about them that is not excessive, in my opinion. Like virtually everything else, I think balance is the essence of successful automotive styling.

The Cerbera was manufactured from 1996 to 2003. Foreign cars can be imported into the US without having to meet DOT or EPA regulations as long as it has been at least 25 years since they were built. The actual number of Cerberas produced is unclear, but is not likely to have exceeded 2,000 and may be as few as 1,100.

OK, good people…the TVR Cerbera, In Or Out? Oh, the name Cerbera was derived from Cerberus, the three-headed monster of Greek mythology that guarded the entrance to Hades.

 

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In Or Out? 9

More prompted than inspired by this Hemmings article and more a function of my own idiosyncratic view of the world than for any other reason comes the next installment of In Or Out? From Wikipedia comes the picture:

 

See the source image

 

This is the Nissan Figaro. I don’t have to include the model year because the car was only sold in 1991. As such, it is now legal to import into the US without worrying about DOT or EPA regulations. I must confess that I really have a yen for these cars (see what I did there).

Originally slated for a production run of 8,000, the Figaro proved to be so popular that more than 20,000 were built. The car was “powered” by an inline 4-cylinder turbocharged engine of about 1 liter in displacement (987 cc/60 cubic inches, to be exact) that produced 75 HP/78 LB-FT of torque. Supposedly, the car could reach a top speed of about 105 MPH, not that I would ever drive a car like this that fast. In fact, no matter how adorable I find the car, I would be afraid to drive it in real life given its weight (1,800 pounds), size (91-inch wheelbase, 147 inches in length) and the fact it does not have airbags. The transmission was a 3-speed automatic.

I have been in one of these and it was not difficult for me to get in and out of the car. Once again, though, the small size and lack of modern safety systems make it something I will only admire from afar.

OK, good people…the Nissan Figaro, In Or Out?

 

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In Or Out? 8

First…our kitchen has not looked this in a long time. Why does it look this way now?

 

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I struggled to pick a car for this In Or Out? post. My own preferences seem to be interfering with the selections. For better or for worse, here is the newest member of the In Or Out? club.

 

See the source image

 

From My Classic Garage a picture of a 1974 AMC Matador X coupe. The Matador coupe was dramatically restyled for the 1974 model year.

The restyling must have been well received as sales of Matador 2-door coupes increased significantly from about 7,000 in 1973 to about 62,000 in 1974, including approximately 10,000 of the Matador X. (That figure for the X spec comes from standard catalog of® of Independents edited by Ron Kowalke. Encyclopedia of American Cars by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide® gives that number as 1,500. If anyone knows which figure is correct or if the two books are not measuring the same thing, please let me know. Thanks.) As far as I can tell, the “X” package was more about looks than about performance. Speaking of performance, the most powerful AMC engine available in 1974 was a 401 cubic-inch V-8 rated at 235 HP, but 335 LB-FT of torque. For a 1974 American car, that was good power.

AMC ran a long ad campaign where the tagline was “What’s A Matador?” Reluctantly using the minion of the Evil Empire (aka Google) known as YouTube, here is a link to a TV commercial for the 1975 Matador using that tag.

OK, kind people…1974 AMC Matador, In Or Out?

 

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In Or Out? Lambo!

On those few days when I have written more than one post, like yesterday, I have not noticed an increase in blog views. Still, I reserve the right to continue the practice when so moved.

 

With new TV production having been halted, more or less, due to the coronavirus, providers of content are just showing reruns. However, some of the non Big-Four “networks” (to me, the non Big-Four networks are just channels) are giving people an opportunity to binge-watch shows as many seem to do who use a streaming TV service.

Motor Trend showed a Chasing Classic Cars “marathon” yesterday and one of the cars featured in one of the episodes is the subject of today’s installment of In Or Out? For many, the Miura is the first Lamborghini of which they were/are aware. The Miura, the first modern mid-engine performance car, was quite a sensation when the P400 prototype was introduced at the 1966 Geneva Motor Show.

However, today’s In Or Out? car is not the Miura, but a Lamborghini that followed the idiom of its first road car, the 350 GT. From uncrate a picture of a Lamborghini 400 GT:

 

See the source image

 

I really like the looks of this car and its predecessor. I’m pretty sure this car is from the “first-generation” of the 400 GT although I can’t see the rear of the car to be sure. This generation 400 GT was basically the 350 GT with a bigger engine, a 3.9 liter/240 cubic-inch V-12 producing 315 HP/276 LB-FT of torque. Later, the 400 GT received different body work that allowed rear seating and these are often called the 400 GT 2+2. In all, only 247 400 GTs were produced from 1966 to 1968, 23 of the first generation and 224 of the GT 2+2. Lamborghini introduced the Islero in 1968, which replaced the 400 GT.

OK, kind people…Lamborghini 400 GT, In Or Out? Once again, if this car fails to receive at least five votes, then the feature will be discontinued.

 

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Throwback Thursday 40

While it is true that on this day in 1895 Charles Duryea was issued the first US patent for a gasoline-powered automobile, I wanted to write something more personal for this edition of Throwback Thursday.

At this time 50 years ago, I was in the last days as a fourth-grade student at Public School #241 in Baltimore. Our teacher was Mrs. S and both Dr. Zal and I had a crush on her. She lived in the same apartment complex as Dr. Zal and one day during the summer between fourth and fifth grade, after screwing up our courage, we decided to pay her a visit. She could not have been more gracious and friendly. I think we spent a half hour in her apartment talking about school.

Could something like that even happen today? (I’m not talking about the virus restrictions getting in the way.) One reason I remember that afternoon fondly is that it seems like a relic from a simpler time. As I have written before, I often pine for my childhood because it was a time when almost anything seemed possible. It also seems, from this distance, as if those were much simpler and more pleasant days.

Of course, my memory could be faulty. In his great book about Vince Lombardi, When Pride Still Mattered, David Maraniss writes about “the fallacy of the innocent past.” I simply could have been unaware of life’s travails at that age.

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As I have previously revealed my birthday is in late March. While my annual physical was originally scheduled for early April, in deference to current circumstances I pushed it out until June 12, which is tomorrow, of course. Yesterday, I received a call from my doctor’s office basically begging me not to have the physical as scheduled, but to reschedule or to have a phone visit, instead. When I reminded the representative that I needed blood work, she said if I had signed up for the “Patient Portal” the doctor could have given me a slip to get the lab work done somewhere else. When I replied that still would require a visit to a lab outside my house and that I might as well see the doctor, after confirming I had a mask and gloves, she relented and confirmed my appointment.

I have to say that, while I realize her intentions were honorable, the call was most disturbing. Yes, the doctor’s office is in a building attached to this area’s primary hospital, but haven’t they established procedures to mitigate risk by now? Her call has also made me question whether or not I want to have the physical exam tomorrow.

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All of the In Or Out? cars have been voted In except for the first one, the Maserati 3200 GT. I have tried to choose cars that are not obviously In or Out for you, the readers. I have also tried to choose cars that are not obviously In or Out for me, but think that almost all of the cars have been candidates, at least, to make my vaguely defined Automobile Top 100.

While this is not an In Or Out? post, I want to show a car that might be a subject for the series at some later date. From Classic Cars, a picture of a 1958 Chevrolet Impala:

 

See the source image

 

I am 95% certain that for this first year, the Impala was actually a sub-model of the Bel Air. In standard catalog of® American Cars, 1946-1975 by John Gunnell the Impala is listed under the Bel Air series for 1958, but then listed separately from 1959 on.

This was a one-year only body style. It’s hard to imagine something like that happening today, even though modern design systems actually make it easier to make changes.

Although now discontinued for the third and almost certainly final time, the Impala is one of the most significant models in US automotive history. At its introduction, one of its most distinctive features was the symmetrical triple taillights. From Fine Art America, a picture showing those lights:

 

See the source image

 

I have seen this taillight treatment on several modified Corvettes, especially C2 models (1963-1967). The 1958 model year was also significant as it marked the introduction of the first version of the Chevrolet big-block engine, the W-Series. Originally displacing “just” 348 cubic inches, this engine family would be produced until 2009. (Please see the comments for clarification. Technically, the W-Block was not the same as the famous 396/427 big block of the 1960s. Still, this began Chevrolet’s production of big-block V8s that continued until 2009.) My sources are not in agreement on the highest output for this engine in its intro year. Using the more conservative source, for 1958 the 348 cubic-inch engine maxed out at 280 HP/355 LB-FT of torque.

Any thoughts on the 1958 Impala?

 

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In Or Out? Etc.

First…thanks again to photobyjohnbo for his wonderful post here yesterday. If you can stand another post from me today, then click on this link so you can read the post he graciously allowed me to do for his blog. (His blog is actually titled “Journeys with Johnbo.”) By the way, you can click on the hyperlinks in a post; they won’t hurt you.

Second…speaking of clicks, while I am very appreciative of my readers I would really appreciate your reading this blog by clicking on a post link (like this) or the main link to the blog. In that way, when you scroll through the blog you are shown ads, which you are free to click on if you have genuine interest, but which “earn” me money even if you don’t click. While I don’t write this blog for the money (what money?), I wouldn’t mind receiving some every now and then.

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This In Or Out? car was suggested by Dirty Dingus McGee. I took a little artistic license, though. From Barrett-Jackson a picture of a 1968 Plymouth Barracuda Formula S fastback:

 

See the source image

 

This car hammered for $25,300 all in at their Reno auction in 2014. That venue is no longer used as they moved the June auction to Mohegan Sun in Connecticut in 2016.

I am a fan of the looks of the second generation Barracuda although I prefer the notchback coupe best among the three available body styles. This Barrett-Jackson car was equipped with the 340 cubic-inch V-8 and a Torqueflite automatic transmission. The 340 was rated 275 HP and 340 LB-FT of torque. The Formula S package included, besides the Commando engine, heavy-duty suspension and wheels, firm-ride shocks, E70-14 Red Streak tires, low-restriction dual-exhaust, front fender badges and special hood inserts.

OK, kind people…second-generation Barracuda Formula S, In Or Out? Once again, if this car fails to receive at least five votes, then In Or Out? will be discontinued. Thanks.

 

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In Or Out?

I almost certainly will not be posting tomorrow. After 32 consecutive days of writing, I think I can take a break.

Once again, a car for you to consider whether it would be In Or Out of some vaguely defined personal automotive Top 100. I do not expect you to actually create a Top 100 or tell us where a car would rank exactly. Without further ado:

 

See the source image

 

From Hagerty Insurance Agency a picture of a first-generation (1967-1970) Mercury Cougar. In the interest of full disclosure, I will offer my opinion that this is one of the underrated cars in US automotive history. I think these look better than the Ford Mustang on which they’re based, came with good performance options and, of course, would make a great basis for a restomod. The Cougar was named 1967 Motor Trend Car of the Year, the first Lincoln-Mercury vehicle to receive the honor.

Despite not really being a pony car or a personal luxury car, the Cougar was popular after its introduction. More than 150,000 were sold in the debut year of 1967. About 437,000 were sold in the first four model years.

OK, people, first-generation Mercury Cougar…In Or Out? Once again, if this car doesn’t receive at least five votes then the feature will be discontinued.

 

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In Or Out? Et Al.

Everyone who knows me knows that squirrels would be a giant OUT! This video shows one of those “rats with better PR” being treated better than it deserves. Squirrels are part of the order Rodentia (from the Latin Rodere, meaning “to gnaw”), the same group to which mice and rats belong.

 

 

 

Also a giant OUT! are those AWFUL Limu Emu and Doug commercials. I won’t even mention the insurance company. The ads are brain-dead, mind-numbingly stupid. On those occasions when we are watching “live” TV, as opposed to something recorded on the DVR, if any of those commercials begins to air I hit Pause, back up the telecast a few frames to before the beginning of the “ad,” count to 15 or 20 and then fast-forward without looking at the screen. Given the large population of this country I’m sure millions of people think the ads are great. For me, an ad campaign that has one commercial where an animatronic emu vomits office supplies is beyond awful. If you’re wondering (or even if you’re not), I couldn’t get to the remote fast enough to avoid seeing that commercial.

 

OK…Philip Maynard suggested this car for In Or Out? so here it is:

 

See the source image

 

From the Mecum Monterey Auction in 2014, a picture of a 1967 Sunbeam Tiger MkII. Whether Philip knew it or not, I am a big fan of these cars.

These are often called the Poor Man’s Cobra. The Tiger was also designed, at least in part, by Carroll Shelby and featured an American V-8 stuffed into a small British roadster, in this case the Sunbeam Alpine from the Rootes Group. The MkII spec had the famous Ford 289 cubic-inch V-8 while the MkI had the less famous 260 cubic-inch V-8. Only 633 of the MkII were made and only in the final year of Tiger production, 1967. About 7,000 Sunbeam Tigers were produced in total.

I’m guessing that the MkII engine had the same output as the base V-8 Mustang engine for 1967: 200 HP/282 LB-FT of torque. As the MkII only weighed about 2,600 pounds that’s a good power-to-weight ratio.

Alright, people…Sunbeam Tiger MkII, In Or Out?

 

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A Year. A Year? A Year!

On this day in 2019 the 279th and last original episode of The Big Bang Theory aired. To me, nothing is a more stark reminder of the scarily swift passage of time than that fact. I can’t even process that reality in any context except, perhaps, intellectually. I’m actually getting more depressed just writing about it. Think about how much has changed in the last year, but try not to get depressed like I am.

From The Mary Sue a picture of the original cast of The Big Bang Theory.

 

See the source image

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Quick note on C8 production: apparently, it will re-start on May 26th, but not at full speed. The re-start at GM plants will begin with a single shift and then ramp up to two or three shifts as demand warrants. The obligatory C8 photo, this time from Top Speed:

 

See the source image

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Does anyone have any idea when the IRS will “re-start production?” For some reason, my accountant of more than 25 years was unable to e-file our federal and state tax returns. Therefore, we had to mail paper copies, which we did in late March. Our state processed our return swiftly and we received our refund in less than two weeks. The IRS? Supposedly they are not “processing” returns at the moment. Obviously, we have not received our refund (an unusually large one for us) nor does the IRS Refund page even have any record of our return. The IRS refund “hotline” is not being staffed at the moment. Yes, I know these are most unusual times and circumstances. Yes, I know the filing deadline was pushed back to July. The situation is still frustrating. Sorry, I’m only human.

I was going to use this situation to note that everything in our “low-tax” state, like road maintenance and processing tax returns, seems to work fine, in many instances better than in the “high-tax” states that surround us, but I would never do that.

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Thanks to Philip Maynard for submitting a car for In Or Out? If you read the comments, and you should, you know what car it is. If you don’t and won’t then you’ll just have to wait to find out.

In the What If? category, on this day in 1952 Studebaker and Porsche signed an agreement for the German company to design a small car for the wagon-makers from Indiana. Only three prototypes were produced.

I don’t know how I feel about that “What If?” or the fact that Studebaker passed on multiple opportunities to be the US distributor for Volkswagen. Studebaker might still be in the automobile business. On the other hand, since they wouldn’t be a defunct American make and might be selling Nazimobiles my feelings about the company might be 180 degrees from what they are. The beginning of a novel that I started writing, but never finished is this, “Nothing is inevitable about life except its end. The prosaic and the extraordinary, the random and the deliberate all contribute to how one’s life unfolds.” Anyway, from Vault Cars a picture of what is probably Studebaker’s most iconic car, the 1953 Commander Starliner:

 

See the source image

 

By the way, this car sold for $28,880 in September of 2018. If that figure doesn’t include the buyers commission, then the price was $30,324 all in.

 

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