Mittwoch Musings

October 10?! Once again, Mittwoch (“Middle of the Week”) is the German/Yiddish word for Wednesday.

Based on the specific “referrals” to the site, and as far as I can surmise, yesterday’s out of context post title (Mutant Zombies) may have attracted one or two readers who might not otherwise have read Disaffected Musings. Were any regular readers put off by the title?

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From Ambrose Bierce: “A conservative is a statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from a liberal who wishes to replace them with other evils.”

Bierce also said, “Politics is a strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.”

Bierce was a renowned writer/poet and a journalist who served in the Union Army for virtually the entire Civil War. In late 1913 he traveled to Mexico in an attempt to experience the Mexican Revolution first-hand. He was never seen again.

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Even noted finance publication Barron’s has taken note of the restomod industry. Long-time friend and Disaffected Musings reader Robert sent me this link. The article is about restomod Mustangs by a company called Revology founded by Tom Scarpello, a long-time auto industry veteran. What I found interesting and amusing is that the tone of this article makes it seem like Scarpello invented the idea of the restomod, even though that actual word is not used. Of course, restomods have been around a long time. Maybe people who read Barron’s have no idea.

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I’m still in a moratorium on writing about or showing C2 Corvettes. (Technically, I guess I just violated the moratorium.) I have been re-reading More Than They Promised, a history of Studebaker, by Thomas Bonsall. If I didn’t want to push away the rapidly increasing number of readers I would show a lot of charts from the book. These charts, on things like sales data and assets, fascinate me, but I’m more than a bit of an oddball as any regular reader knows.

Five-ish years ago I would not have had any interest in a car like this:

This is a photo (by yours truly) of a 1932 “custom” Studebaker St. Regis. By custom I mean the car has a non-standard body that includes extra-long doors. Most people think of Studebaker as a lower-price make and, of course, that was the reality for much of Studebaker’s existence. However, the real world is almost always more complicated than our distillations of it. People who engage in what I call impossible distillations of reality are usually off the mark.

This car is quite handsome in person, but one would not expect to see too many museum pieces in a state of squalor. Once again, if you are a car aficionado please do all that you can, within your means, to support the hobby. That might include membership in an automobile museum.

October 10?!

 

 

 

 

Sunday Studebaker

From this post comes this observation:

 

Studebaker’s V-8 was one of the best engines of the era. We have pointed out in previous posts that it had one major design factor that severely limited Studebaker’s ability to expand it: the bore center spacing was such that the engine could not practically be expanded beyond 289 cubic inches. We perceive of that now as being a flaw in the design, but we need to understand the engineers’ reasons for designing the engine as they did. The engineers DELIBERATELY designed the engine to be limited in displacement. Deliberately?!

Yes, because South Bend’s engine engineers had counted on postwar predictions from General Motors Research Labs that future gasoline octane ratings would soon rise above that of aviation fuel. Charles Kettering, GM’s research boss, saw higher octane ratings and higher engine compression ratios as the next big thing.

Studebaker bought into that and developed its postwar V-8 so it would accept compression ratios of up to 14:1. The idea was to increase engine power and efficiency by progressively raising compression rather than by expanding displacement. Unfortunately for Studebaker, the oil companies didn’t go along with Kettering’s vision, automotive octane numbers stayed flat, and Studebaker was left holding the small-displacement bag.”

 

Besides noting that history is replete with examples of the folly of human beings trying to predict the future, even when the arena is at least partially under human control, think about the ramifications of this point. Studebaker was in no position to cover the waterfront; that is, it did not have the resources to design multiple V-8 blocks. Chevrolet/GM could develop a small-block and big-block V-8 with different overall exterior dimensions, including different bore center spacing, and not just different displacements. Studebaker could not afford that approach.

I have a graduate degree in Economics (which, at this point, will get me breakfast at McDonald’s as long as I also have $5). Once an industry begins to shake out in terms of market share—and luck/stochastic variation can play a large role in that process—it can be virtually impossible for those firms with smaller share to ever gain market power. Market share begets more market share. Once the US auto industry developed into The Big Three and everyone else, and this happened sooner than most people realize, the demise of the Independents may simply have become inevitable. (For model year 1941, the last full year of production before World War II, all of the top eight makes in terms of production were Big Three makes.)

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever, its loveliness increases. It will never pass into nothingness…”

– John Keats

See the source image

From autoblog.com a picture of a Studebaker Avanti.

See the source image

From conceptcarz.com a picture of a Studebaker Commander Starliner coupe.

From Keats again, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever, its loveliness increases. It will never pass into nothingness…”

 

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Not all of the posts are about Studebaker, but a lot of the posts are about automobiles.