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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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.

 

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