Wandering Wednesday

This is the 17th post with the title “Wandering Wednesday.” Do you think my penchant for alliteration is an asset or a liability? I do think, and granted this is a subjective observation, that post titles affect readership.

 

A “dump” of links to posts from Why Evolution Is True:

 

Every planet in one photo (except Pluto)

Pinker: The “evolution war” is also a culture war

Peter Singer’s contrarian view on the Dobbs decision

I have avoided writing about this because, in my opinion, abortion is the very definition of a “hot button” issue. One thing I like about Why Evolution Is True is that the blog author (Jerry Coyne) can acknowledge that points of view with which he disagrees can still have merit, unlike the majority of today’s American population.

A NYT columnist accuses extremists on both Left and Right of erasing women

Once again, I lament the loss of real debate in this country. People shout at others instead of talking to them. Both sides are guilty although partisans will either not acknowledge that reality or arrogantly and blindly claim that they are right and, therefore, shouting is appropriate. From the post:

 

“It’s heartening to see someone of [Pamela] Paul’s stature at a paper as influential as the NYT pushing back on irrational wokeness. [My note: I think virtually all wokeness is irrational.] Is this a trend now? Will it go away? I doubt it, but voices of dissent from Leftists themselves are beginning to be heard, and this article—I’ve quoted only a bit of it—is one. I’ll just add her ending:

‘Tolerance for one group need not mean intolerance for another. We can respect transgender women without castigating females who point out that biological women still constitute a category of their own — with their own specific needs and prerogatives.'”

 

For the nth to the n time, NO ONE has a monopoly on truth, wisdom and good judgment and neither does ANY ideology. I once opined that if the five most liberal and five most conservative US Senators were replaced with moderates, then the country would be on much sounder footing. I don’t believe that, anymore. The division is far beyond Congress and, once again, the scourge of social media bears much/most of the blame.

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Here is a link to a Hemmings piece from ten days ago about a car that may or may not be included in a Hall of Very Good Cars post, the Pontiac Fiero. A picture from the article:

 

 

While the exterior design is very much of the period I think the Fiero has a very sharp and clean look. I have never driven one or even sat in one. Despite the mid-engine layout, the Fiero was not designed as a performance car. Even the Formula/GT version was powered by an engine that produced just 135 HP/165 LB-FT of torque. However, if the car’s designers had tried to position the Fiero as a true sports car, it is likely that upper-level executives at General Motors would have never allowed the Fiero to be built as it would have been seen as potentially cannibalizing the Corvette market. How ironic is it that moving the Corvette to a mid-engine platform came to be adopted as the way to broaden the car’s worldwide appeal?

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Here is a link to another Hemmings piece from late May (I no longer subscribe to Hemmings, which is why this reference is “late”) about George Murphy, owner of the largest GM dealership in the world in the mid-1960s, and his efforts to save Studebaker. From the article:

 

“Murphy sensed an opportunity with Studebaker, so in February of 1966, after selling Honolulu Iron Works, he approached Studebaker chairman Randolph Guthrie with an offer to buy 500,000 shares of Studebaker stock—more than a sixth of the outstanding shares of common stock—at $30 per share, above market price. The offer came out of left field, according to a lawsuit between Studebaker and Allied Products, a Studebaker supplier that also entered in negotiations to buy the company immediately after Murphy’s offer. Studebaker’s board of directors appeared in favor of Murphy’s offer but ultimately left the decision up to the stockholders, who, by all indications, let the offer die on the vine. Guthrie, in turn, rejected Allied’s offer, and a month later Studebaker shut down the Hamilton assembly line, bringing an end to the company’s car making efforts.”

 

By the time Murphy made his offer, the cars shown below had already been discontinued. Still, who knows what might have happened. Many of those who know far more about Studebaker than I do think the board just wanted to leave the automobile business regardless.

 

See the source image

 

The top photo is a Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk, a member of my Ultimate Garage 3.0, and the bottom is a Studebaker Avanti, a member of my first Ultimate Garage.

Another idea often written here is that what actually happens/happened is virtually never the only thing that could have happened. If Murphy’s bid had been accepted or Studebaker had signed any of the three offers to import Volkswagens, then the company might still exist and might still be manufacturing and selling cars. I don’t know how I would feel about Studebaker under the latter scenario, but that’s another story.

 

#WanderingWednesday

#IdeologyIsAPathToRuin

#PontiacFiero

#TheEndOfStudebaker

#somanyCARSjustonelife

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Slippery Sunday

I was remiss in not noting that this past Friday (the 27th) was the one-year anniversary of our reaching a tentative agreement to sell our house in the mid-Atlantic. In some ways, it’s not so difficult to think it’s been a year although in some ways it is. We didn’t actually close on the sale until early November as the house needed major repairs–primarily to the stucco in the front of the house–before we could close.

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This post claims that evidence is waning for the theory that the damn virus escaped from the virus lab in Wuhan, China. Here is an excerpt from the post:

 

“While we’ll never know for sure where the virus came from, the wet-market origin is looking increasingly likely…the precautions we’d take depend on the pandemic’s origin. If it came from a wet market, we’d want to take a close look at these markets, and possibly close them. (I think they should be closed anyway, for, as I’ve seen, the animals for sale are kept under horrible conditions.) If it escaped from the WIV, on the other hand, we’d want to institute more stringent regulations in lab.”

 

The Chinese government’s unwillingness to cooperate with any real investigation will always cloud any judgment. It should also serve as a reminder that their government is not one “of the people, by the people, for the people,” the phrase Lincoln used in his Gettysburg Address. They can call themselves the People’s Republic of China, but it’s just a name, not reality. Oh, I think the wet markets are disgusting. I don’t care how elitist or racist that may sound.

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This Hagerty article is titled, “9 tragically flawed GM vehicles whose heroic fixes came too late.” Here are pictures of the first two cars listed:

 

1990 cadillac allante red convertible

1988 pontiac fiero gt assembly sign

 

Of course, the top photo is a Cadillac Allante (the article specifies the 1993 model, the only year the car was equipped with the Northstar V-8) and the bottom shows the last two Pontiac Fieros ever built meaning they are from the 1988 model year.

Both of these cars have been written about and shown in this blog with the Allante earning a place in Ultimate Garage 3.0. Oh, here is the opening to the Hagerty article, which I think is extremely descriptive:

 

“Decades upon decades passed when General Motors could do no wrong, and the products rolling off its assembly line were proof positive of its business model’s supremacy. But nobody’s perfect, and mistakes had to be addressed to meet stockholder’s expectations. GM’s design and engineering teams made some great cars with serious potential that were packed with tragic flaws—and received heroic fixes that came right before their curtain calls. It’s all rather tragic, so here are nine examples to prove the point.”

 

General Motors descent from invincible leviathan to village idiot (OK, maybe that last phrase is a bit of an overstatement) did not, of course, take place overnight and in one giant fall. Still, in the early 1960s GM was very worried about being the target of government action because it occupied more than half of the US automobile market. Three decades later and three decades ago (1991) GM lost $4.5 billion and announced a plan to close 21 manufacturing plants. Of course, by 2008 GM’s losses ballooned to almost $31 billion and the next year the company had to file for bankruptcy and be reorganized.

Since the bankruptcy and reorganization, General Motors has usually been profitable. For 2018-2020 the company had an aggregate profit of almost $21 billion. Still, it is not the king of the hill and it doesn’t seem as if it ever will be again.

Just as some automotive historians think that Studebaker’s bankruptcy and receivership of 1933 meant the company was ultimately doomed, GM’s bankruptcy will prevent it from regaining its dominant status, at least for the foreseeable future.

I welcome thoughts from you.

 

#SlipperySunday

#DamnVirusTheory

#CadillacAllante

#PontiacFiero

#somanycarsjustonelife

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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?

 

#InOrOut?

#SayNoToBlindAdherenceToIdeology

#PontiacFiero

#somanycarsjustonelife

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Frugal Friday Last Of July

First…I must really be messed up. Despite the fact that it’s been more than two months since the last Big Bang Theory episode aired I am still sad that the show will no longer be produced. Despite many attempts I cannot watch the series finale—either all or in part but always including the tag (the mini-scene at the end of a show)—without tearing up at the end.

I am trying to wrap my head around why this is so. Is it because I watched The Big Bang Theory for more seasons (all 12) than any other TV show? Is it because it is highly likely I will never watch a new sitcom ever again? (Sorry, but I have tried watching some current “sitcoms” and none of them are funny to me in any way, shape or form.) Is it just as simple as I liked the show far more than I realized and will miss not being able to watch new episodes? Of course, as I am writing this I hear the theme song in my head, but it’s the acoustic, solo version used only in the finale and the wrap-up show and not the main theme used in the 279 episodes. Farewell once more, Big Bang Theory.

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A recent episode of Wheeler Dealers featured a car like this:

 

Large Picture of '91 MR2 - OUER

 

From classiccars.com a picture of a second-generation/W20 Toyota MR2, in this case a 1991 model. I have written about this car before, but not specifically about the second generation.

Despite the wheels, they’re not appealing to me even if they’re stock, I think these cars look great. It was this version, a significant re-design from the first generation, that was dubbed “a baby Ferrari” or “a poor man’s Ferrari” as many styling cues were adopted from Ferrari and this car is mid-engined.

This one is offered for sale by a company in Virginia that apparently specializes in Japanese right-hand drive vehicles. The asking price is $16,900. The ad doesn’t indicate whether or not this is the turbo version, but I suspect it isn’t. I mean, if it were that fact would be prominent. I still think that’s a great price for a good-looking car that’s not a slug. By the way, the MR2 Turbo engine produced 200 HP/200 LB-FT of torque and the car would accelerate from 0-60 MPH in 6.1 seconds. It could run a sub-15 second standing quarter mile.

 

Sticking with mid-engined cars, I guess as a nod to the new mid-engined Corvette:

Large Picture of '88 Fiero - QI2E

This is a 1988 Pontiac Fiero. These cars were, unfortunately, a symbol of some dark days for General Motors, from an era when GM seemed to use its customers as beta testers. From Encyclopedia of American Cars by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide®, “As it had with the X-cars, GM shot itself in the foot by selling a car [the Fiero] before it was fully developed.” I’ll tell you what, though, I think these are great-looking cars. Like the Cadillac Allante and other cars, just as the Fiero seemed to be sorted out, GM pulled the plug. This was the last model year for the Fiero, which started successfully in 1984 with almost 137,000 sold, but after that sales declined dramatically as word spread of the issues with the car.

This Fiero was powered by the 2.8 liter/173 cubic-inch V6 that produced 135 HP/165 LB-FT of torque. Of the 23 Fieros that are listed for sale on classiccars.com, only five were listed for more than $10,000. This is not one of those five; the dealer is asking $8,900. The car does have a lot of miles, more than 143,000.

I still think in an effort to shed its “boring” image, GM should let Buick produce a halo car. I think a modern, slightly larger and roomier version of the Fiero could be a contender. Of course, it could be that GM/Chevrolet wouldn’t want to steal the thunder from the release of the mid-engined Corvette.

 

#FrugalFriday

#BigBangTheory

#SecondGenerationToyotaMR2

#PontiacFiero

#somanycarsjustonelife

#disaffectedmusings

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