Archive for Driver’s Seat

Barely better than clubs

The diamond industry (think De Beers) would have you believe that synthetic, laboratory-created diamonds are somehow inferior to those dug out of a mine. Actually, there’s not very much special about any diamonds regardless of provenance:

Don’t believe a word of the hype from the diamond industry about how “natural” gems are somehow “better” than synthetic gems. They’re lying — and, what’s more, they’ve been living a lie for generations. You see, there are parts of the world where diamonds are common or garden items. If it were allowed (it’s not), I could take you for a walk in the so-called Sperrgebiet — “Forbidden Area” — in Namibia, and literally pick up diamonds off the sand as we walk. I know. I’ve done it on an escorted tour, near Oranjemund. (Of course, the area has long been stripped of most of its best diamonds, at enormous profit to the local diamond industry but giving virtually nothing back to the local population or the country.)

But there is a difference, right?

Put two identical gems next to one another, one natural and the other synthetic, and you probably won’t be able to tell them apart unless you examine them microscopically. (Indeed, the synthetic gem may well be “superior” to the natural one, in that it’ll probably contain fewer impurities.)

What price mystique? Ask the poor shlub who spent student-loan-level fundage on a solitaire for his ladylove.


Decaf for CAFE

Everybody except your friendly neighborhood treehugger — the ones who live near me are downright jovial, but your mileage may vary — can find something wrong with the government’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy scheme. So far, though, only Jack Baruth has figured out a simple solution:

Two weeks ago, the EPA announced that it would “finalize” its 2025 regulations earlier than expected. This action has no force of law; it’s merely meant to enshrine President Obama’s desires in writing before President Trump takes over. There is no reason that Mr. Trump could not change these regulations as he desires. Early indications are that he’s not terribly impressed by the EPA in general. He might choose to lower CAFE targets a bit. He might choose to abolish them altogether.

I have a different suggestion, one that will probably manage to enrage both the tree-huggers AND the red-state conservatives. I think he should set ambitious CAFE goals that apply to both cars and trucks equally. Instead of 60mpg for cars and 30mpg for trucks, how about 45mpg for everybody? Let’s stop playing favorites and picking winners. There should be one CAFE for everybody.

Cars are becoming increasingly trucklike, just to meet that lower standard: the late, unlamented Chrysler PT Cruiser had just enough truckitude in its design to allow the Pentastar to include it in the truck average, and newer vehicles from FCA and others don’t even pretend to be cars anymore. I don’t know about you, but I am weary of these so-called “crossovers” with jacked-up height and visual bulk.


Four or more on the floor

The Truth About Cars put up this Question of the Day yesterday: “What keeps you in a stick shift?”

Of the first hundred or so answers, this one struck me as particularly on point, despite its politically-incorrect undertones:

I live in Detroit. A manual is a darn near mandatory anti-theft system, what with staggeringly few people able to drive it.

Of course, this viewpoint is just as valid outside the Motor City.


And Manhattan yields

Three in the morning on the 6th of December in the City of New York, and here’s a guy who makes 240 green lights in a row:

Noah hits 240 green lights. from Shawn Swetsky – Post Producer on Vimeo.

Which says something about NYC, too:

The fact that this feat is possible at all say a lot about the New York City system’s efficiency. Fewer stops means quicker travel times and better fuel mileage. Yes, [Noah] Forman’s drive happened during off hours in order to avoid traffic, but sometimes those are the best times to get out and drive.

I don’t think I’ve ever made ten in a row here in the Okay City.

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Troll level: hitchhiker

This is just colossally dumb:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: I have a honda crx dohc zc1 engine is it okay to put half a quart less engine oil to save engine drag and get more horse power

This is not quite as intelligent, as, say, substituting Clorox for Metamucil. Still, I sort of want to encourage the guy so he’ll ruin his car faster.


We are not amoosed

Something like this would definitely leave a mark on one’s psyche:

The Alberta government has issued a warning to drivers to be on alert for tongues eagerly lapping at the sides of their vehicles. The muscular appendages, in this case, belong to moose, especially those found in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, southwest of Calgary.

Mountainous splendor and pristine wilderness is nice, but these moose want your car. Or more specifically, what’s coating it. Liberal use of road salt means a rolling buffet for local moose, who turn up in parking lots like it’s an after-work function at Ponderosa.

Mynd you, møøse bites Kan be pretty nasti…


Is this a feature?

It sounds like a bug to me:

On Wednesday, Uber rolled out a handful of its self-driving cars in San Francisco to be used by the public. Also on Wednesday, one of those cars ran a red light.

It’s not totally clear how that happened or who is at fault, since the cars have a safety driver ready to take over as well as an additional engineer. But it is very clear that the robot car — a Volvo XC90 the company developed in collaboration with the automaker — ran a red light.

The view from the dashcam in a cab:

Interestingly, Uber doesn’t have a California permit for self-driving cars; they claim that there is a human operator always at least somewhat in control. California is not impressed with this argument.

Update, 7 pm: The DMV has now shut down the Uber program.


Shaving Megan’s privates

And you thought texting was distracting:

As authorities nationwide warn motorists of the dangers of driving while texting, Florida Keys law enforcement officers add a new caution: Don’t try to shave your privates, either.

Florida Highway Patrol troopers say a two-vehicle crash Tuesday at Mile Marker 21 on Cudjoe Key was caused by a 37-year-old woman driver who was shaving her bikini area while her ex-husband took the wheel from the passenger seat.

“She said she was meeting her boyfriend in Key West and wanted to be ready for the visit,” Trooper Gary Dunick said. “If I wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have believed it. About 10 years ago I stopped a guy in the exact same spot … who had three or four syringes sticking out of his arm. It was just surreal and I thought, ‘Nothing will ever beat this.’ Well, this takes it.”

Could this possibly be worse? Yes, it can:

The day before the wreck, [Megan Mariah] Barnes was convicted in an Upper Keys court of DUI with a prior and driving with a suspended license, said Monroe County Assistant State Attorney Colleen Dunne. Barnes was ordered to impound her car, and her driver’s license was revoked for five years, after which time she must have a Breathalyzer ignition interlock device on any vehicle she drives, Dunne said. Barnes also was sentenced to nine months’ probation.

She faces a year in jail for probation violations, presumably without access to razor blades.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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Alabama wants asphalt

At least, the County Commissioners want it:

The Association of County Commissions of Alabama voted today to seek legislative approval of a $1.2 billion bond issue for road construction during next year’s legislative session.

The plan calls for a 3-cent tax on gasoline and diesel fuel to pay off the bonds. The tax would expire when the bonds are paid off.

ACCA Executive Director Sonny Brasfield said no counties voted against the plan at today’s meeting in Montgomery. He said about 53 counties were represented at the meeting.

This isn’t the first time this was thought of, either:

A bill to raise the gasoline tax by 6 cents a gallon failed in the Legislature this year, and similar proposals died last year.

It’s been about a decade since I drove on any Alabama roads, but I wasn’t impressed at the time:

One thing I won’t miss is I-65 through Montgomery. There would be suicide on a Guyanese scale in ODOT had Oklahoma City’s soon-they-say-to-be-supplanted Crosstown Expressway deteriorated to this point: the speed limit is down to 45, and even that’s a pain in the ball joints.

Maybe that project is finished — or maybe they need to restart it.


A Normal development

The recently shuttered Diamond-Star Motors plant in Normal, Illinois, built as a joint venture of Chrysler and Mitsubishi in 1988, may be seeing future duty as, yes, an automobile plant:

According to Reuters, Detroit-based Rivian Automotive has agreed to purchase the plant and reopen it within five years. Going by Rivian’s website, the only thing we know for sure about the automotive venture is that it’s “coming soon.”

The company, which hasn’t confirmed the purchase, bills itself as an automotive technology venture interested in sustainable mobility. At the helm is CEO RJ Scaringe, who formed the company in 2009.

Still, Normal mayor Chris Koos says it’s a done deal. He told Reuters that Rivian plans to employ a workforce of 500 when the plant reopens in 2021, with that number eventually growing to 1,000 employees. State and local economic development agencies claim Rivian will invest $175 million into the operation by 2024.

A lot of vaporware has wafted past our sensors in recent years, and we don’t even know what Rivian plans to do, let alone how they plan to do it. TTAC’s Steph Willams takes a guess:

Though it sounds like a garden-variety mobility technology startup, Rivian seems to want to produce actual vehicles, though it hasn’t mentioned any potential partners or suppliers. What those (clearly electric) vehicles might look like is anyone’s guess. Assuming this gets off the ground, the rolling stock would likely form part of a ride-sharing service.

Uber, but without Uberness.

Mr Scaringe brings some serious educational heft with him: graduate of Rensselaer, PhD from MIT. And the auto industry is always in need of Smart Guys, especially Smart Guys who go their own way. (See Musk, Elon.)

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Baby remains on board

If you’re clueless enough to forget that you’re hauling a kid in the back seat, General Motors has a vehicle for you.

GM Rear Seat Reminder

Or will have soon, anyway:

Having made its debut in the 2017 GMC Acadia earlier this year, the technology aims to prevent heatstroke-related deaths and reduce the number of children left unattended in parking lots.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration lists heatstroke as one of the leading causes of non-traffic vehicle-related fatalities for children under fourteen. According to, that works out to an average of 37 fatalities per year. The majority of the time, those children were simply forgotten in the back.

GM’s Rear Seat Reminder works by monitoring the vehicle’s rear doors. The feature activates whenever a rear door is opened and closed within 10 minutes before the vehicle is started, or if they are opened and closed while the vehicle is already running. When the vehicle is turned off after a door activation, the system sounds five audible chimes and a display message reminder drivers to “Look in Rear Seat.”

This system makes certain assumptions: that the kid hasn’t been in there for more than ten minutes, and that the alleged adult at the wheel isn’t whacked out on meth.

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Only one of these numbers is at all relevant:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: On the autobahn, can a g37x sedan keep up(pacing)with other high performance vehicles(Amgs, m series, Audi rs, Porsche, Ferrari)?

Justifications, so to speak:

The car is a 2013 g37 x Sedan the car has a 7 speed automatic transmission. The car is in physically and mechanically in good condition and is easily capable of doing over 110 mph on highways that are legally limited to as high as 75 mph. The performance on this car seems phenomenal and seems to have really good handling capabilities at extremely speeds(150 mph or more).

Anyways the car has
-328 hp, 269ftlbs of torque
3.7 liter v6 naturally aspirated
0-60 in 5.4 sec
Has awd
Speed is limited up to 155 mph

My real question is based on the performance of this car, does it have what it takes(performance) to compete against other high end sports(like the ones I mentioned above) or would it be left in the dust?


Also can the g37x sustain speeds of 140 mph or would the engine blow up? Would adding a heavy duty radiator cooler, better tires, stiffer suspensions and an intake filter help it?

Note that he has no idea whether this Infiniti actually has “really good handling capabilities at extremely [sic] speeds.”

But none of this is relevant in the light of this one line:

Speed is limited up to 155 mph

Those other guys? Not limited to 155 mph. What do you think would happen, assuming there’s enough space on the autobahn to allow this kind of boy-racer fantasy?

This has to be either a bar bet, or a 15-year-old who dreams that the parental units are going to get him this car and who will be threatening suicide when they come home with something appropriate to his capabilities — say, a ’99 Toyota Corolla.


Give me convenience

Actually, it’s not that we want convenience; it’s that we want to avoid inconvenience. Jack Baruth understands:

The always-changing Uber app, which never presents me with the same look, choices, or order flow twice in a row, told me that the ride to the airport would be $34 with UberX. Or it would be $77 with UberSelect. I considered this briefly, and thought about the last few UberX rides I’d taken. A lot of cramped, weary Toyotas, trunks and hatch areas full of grime that threatened to befoul my custom-color RedOxx bags, drivers whose command of English was both minimal and surprisingly malleable depending on how the conversation was going.

For an extra forty bucks, I could skip all that. I’m now at the age in life where I’m willing to spend money to avoid misery. I park at the $16/day garage that is connected to the airport instead of at the $6/day shuttle lot because I hate the uncertainty and the noise and the crowding of the shuttle. That’s where I am as a human being right now; willing to drop $10 a day so I don’t have to ride for 10 minutes in a bus. Thirty years ago I earned two and a half dollars an hour scrubbing pizza pans after midnight so I could pay six-dollar entry fees for Saturday morning BMX races. My childhood self doesn’t understand this extended dream I live now, an endless progression of travel and attractive women and Kimpton reservations and $50 filets. Certainly he wouldn’t have spent a month’s worth of pan-scrubbing income to ride in a different kind of car to the airport.

My childhood self just barely comprehends Uber.

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Death quarter-panels

The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia provides auto insurance for all comers in that westernmost province.

Or they did, anyway. Now they’re imposing something that looks like a means test:

British Columbia will no longer insure high-end luxury vehicles through its public auto insurance policies, says the province’s transportation minister.

The government is working on legislative changes to have the Insurance Corporation of B.C. no longer insure luxury vehicles worth $150,000 or more.

Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone says it’s expensive to repair high-end cars and creates “pressures” on basic rates for all drivers.

Owners of cars priced above $150,000 will have to buy private insurance instead.

The worst-case example provided:

The ministry said in a statement the cost for parts to repair the fender, grille, headlight and intercooler on a 2015 Bentley Flying Spur W12 was approximately $38,000.

“While the cost to repair this car is substantially more than the everyday car, the basic insurance rates of about $1,000 per car are about the same.”

Last year, the average repair cost for a high-value luxury car was about $13,000, compared to an average repair cost around $2,500 for what the province called a typical private vehicle.

A Spur starts at $200k in the States, probably 50k more than that in Canada.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)


Whatever that may mean

The Car Talk newspaper column continues, and sometimes it throws me for a loop:

The standard trucks, like the Ford F-150 and Chevy Silverado, are humongous now. And the so-called smaller trucks, like the Chevy Colorado, Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier, are simply “big.”

Of those smaller trucks, the Chevy is the most modern, the Tacoma is the most reliable and the Nissan is the most Nissany.

Damning with faint praise, or praising with faint damns? I’m not quite sure what “Nissany” actually means.

I do know one person who has owned two Frontiers in succession. Perhaps I should ask her.

In the meantime, I probably should try to make up adjectives for other auto marques. I plead guilty to using “Bimmeresque” once or twice.

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Rubber, meet road

I’d been driving on Cooper CS4 Touring tires, which were discontinued a couple of years back to make room for the slightly more upscale CS5. The tire shop might have been expected to push a set of CS5s, but they came back with the CS3 instead:

Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. has launched its new CS3 Touring, which the company said is a mid-range tire ideal for “accidental performance” consumers looking to spend less on replacement tires for their H-, V- or T-rated vehicles.

Yeah, that’s me, Accidental Performance. Well, I did show up behind a walker.

If the CS5 is a hair pricier, the CS3 is a step down: I paid $500ish for the four, plus all the usual tire things, which pushed the tab over $600.

And should anyone care: 215/55R16 97H, 440 A A. Green valve caps, too.


Maximum wrongness

This is just so wrong on so many levels:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Can I replace the engine in a modern vehicle with a 1940 Cadillac V16 engine and not be subject to an emissions inspection?

Um, no, no, and once again no. You have to meet the emissions spec for the vehicle’s model year, irrespective of engine. This boat anchor weighs nearly as much as the two straight-eights from which it was derived, which will screw up your suspension something fierce. And today there are contemporary fours that put out more power than the low-revving Caddy sixteen while drinking far less fuel.

Let’s hope this is a troll, because if someone that stupid is out there … but never mind, let’s not even think about that.

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Radioactive leadfoot

I remember discussing this on Twitter and wondering how the frack it was possible:

A 19-year old with some kind of savage, magic 2011 Mustang was reportedly clocked doing 208 MPH on Kilpatrick Turnpike in Oklahoma City. There’s no question that anyone doing 208 in a Mustang on public roads is an idiot who’s incredibly lucky they don’t kill themselves or anyone else. But there is a question about what kind of Mustang does 208 MPH?

The driver, Hector Fraire, was reportedly initially clocked doing 84 MPH. He sped up in an attempt to lose the trooper, along with turning off his headlights, and, according to some outlets, his brake lights as well, which is quite odd.

As he was fleeing, he was allegedly clocked doing 176 MPH and then peaked at a surprising 208 MPH, before finally getting pulled over at a red light, where he admitted defeat and dropped his keys out the window.

Well, yeah. The Kilpatrick is only 25 miles long; sooner or later he had to get off, and at that speed “sooner” is the operative word.

But this was the point I raised in the discussion:

A stock 2011 Mustang GT with the 5.0 V8 is electronically limited to 155 MPH. It’s easy enough to lose the limiter, so with that gone, what would a 2011 Mustang GT do? A 2013 Shelby GT500 Mustang would do 189 MPH.

This doesn’t seem to be a GT500, but a lot of work had to be done, I’d imagine. To get from a stock 2011 5.0 top speed of about, let’s say 170 (optimistic, based on a number of forums and sources) to 208 is not trivial. It’ll take more than just lightening the car, and since it’s still recognizable as a Mustang to cops, I’m guessing no dramatic aero changes to alter the frontal area were involved.

Reckless driving and “felony eluding” charges were filed against the kid. Me, I want to see that souped-up Ford.

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Speed demon

The days of Really Great Writing in car mags have probably long since expired, but every now and then someone — I’m looking at you, Jack Baruth — comes up with a true zinger. This one is from Aaron Robinson in the December Car and Driver:

Mario Fasanetto goes shrieking through the forests of the Eifel Mountains in a Lamborghini Aventador SV, a car that seemingly came about when Clark Kent and the devil had a baby. The Lambo’s body is slashed with cuts and gouged with holes and tattooed with black blades that order the wind to either go through it or go around it. The four pipes under the rear origami “bumper” gushes flame — flame! — a good six inches when the whip comes down on the 6.5-liter, 8500-rpm V-12. This is the car that appears when you call for an Uber in Mordor.

That last line just tickles the heck out of me.

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An unrecycled sentiment

I admit to not getting this at first:

Infiniti is famous, of course, for inscrutable advertising. Go back a couple of decades:

Then again, Brubeck speaks to us all. I had to get an explanation of that tree thing from Matt Polsky:

Eager to cash in on the warm fuzziness of the seasonal aesthetic, Infiniti has partnered with the Arbor Day Foundation to plant 35,000 new trees on behalf of drivers, and came up with a corresponding television commercial and digital campaign.

Oh. Okay.


Perp holder

Today the PIT, tomorrow the Grappler:

Whence this comes:

An Arizona man has spent the last eight years developing a tool that could end police pursuits by ensnaring the rear wheel of a fleeing vehicle. Called the Grappler Police Bumper, the seemingly simple apparatus can be mounted to the front of a police-spec Tahoe or Explorer.

Looking like a giant pool skimmer, the unit consists of extendable, Y-shaped arms holding a heavy-duty nylon net. When the arms are extended and lowered towards the road surface, a pursuing officer drives up behind the suspect’s rear quarter and snags the vehicle’s rear wheel. The cord then wraps around the rear wheel and axle, locking it. The officer’s vehicle remains tethered to the suspect vehicle, so they can floor the accelerator in vain all they want.

There’s a certain rough-hewn charm to it, but eventually it will give way to higher tech:

And in another 8 years the police officer will simply push a button and your car will auto-pilot to a full stop. Don’t bother locking your doors, there’s an override for that.

Okay probably not 8 years but it is going to happen sooner or later.

In this town, where entirely too many perps think they can outrun the cops, I expect to see some successful Grapples.

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Blinded by the lights

Sunrise has been around 7:50 of late, meaning I get to drive to the shop in the dark. (This changes — briefly — starting next week.) I’d guesstimate that at least 10 percent of oncoming drivers have no idea how to work the dimmer switch.

The Chinese, you may be sure, would not put up with this sort of thing:

Police in southern China are punishing drivers who dazzle other road users with full-beam headlights by making them stare into the lights for a minute, it’s reported.

Shenzhen Traffic Police posted photos of the campaign in action on their official Weibo account. “Tonight we are carrying out punishments using a high beam,” the post reads. It’s racked up 87,000 likes and been shared 93,000 times. The photos show people sitting directly in front of a car with its headlights on.

Official media say drivers are fined 300 yuan ($44; £36) and made to spend 60 seconds in front of the beam. But some news websites have suggested that the headlight element is optional, although it’s unclear why people would choose it on top of paying a fine.

This is not the only nonstandard punishment employed by Shenzhen:

Last year, they made jaywalkers choose between paying a fine or wearing a green hat and vest while directing traffic.

(Via Fark.)

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Buckeyes wide open

In the November Road & Track, Jack Baruth and Sam Smith get to wander Ohio with a Porsche 918 and a Ferrari LaFerrari, and Baruth was delighted at doing all this wandering close to home:

In Los Angeles, you see these cars run by people who tint the windows and scowl if you look at them. That whole aristocratic attitude where it’s death to touch the duke’s horse. That wouldn’t fly in Ohio. Everybody thinks they’re just as good as you are, and they’ll come right up and talk to you.

In the end, I think Porsche and Ferrari need a percentage of buyers who actually use the cars. It keeps them honest. There will always be a market for half-finished, high-priced junk that some prince can keep in his living room. But the prestige attached to these marques is dependent on keeping the respect of the old-school customers.

To which Smith added:

If you can’t keep doing business with those guys, you’re basically Louis Vuitton selling wheeled luggage.

And ridiculously expensive wheeled luggage at that.

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Don’t tick her off

Most of the stereotypical stuff about Women Drivers has evaporated, at least partially due to the vast quantity of male maleficence findable on YouTube. I would not have suspected, though, that She Who Is Not To Be Cut Off is actually angrier:

New research from Hyundai Motor UK has discovered women drivers are angrier than men.

The recent study of 1,000 UK drivers reveals women are, on average, 12% angrier than men when they’re behind the wheel.

Researchers found driving sparked ancient “defence” instincts from when humans were hunter-gatherers. These evolutionary traits kicked in during the test when women were either undertaken, shouted or beeped at, had to deal with a back-seat driver (women 14% angrier) or were faced with a road user who failed to indicate (women 13% angrier). In all test scenarios, women were more likely to respond with anger than male drivers.

The experiment, conducted by Patrick Fagan, behavioural psychologist from Goldsmiths University London, “sense tested” the 1,000 drivers to see how sound, sight, smell, touch and taste provoke emotional responses in different driving scenarios.

Dr Fagan’s explanation for the results:

“Psychologically, women score higher than men on emotional and verbal intelligence, and on the personality trait of neuroticism. Evolutionary theory suggests our early female ancestors had to develop an acute sense of danger for anything that threatened them and their young if their cave was undefended while men were out hunting. That ‘early warning system’ instinct is still relevant today, and women drivers tend to be more sensitive to negative stimuli, so get angry and frustrated quicker.”

And if there’s one thing we have in abundance on our roads, it’s negative stimuli.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

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Yahoo! Answers is good for at least half a dozen of these a week:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: If I am stuck in a car loan and can't afford the payments how can I get out of the loan early?

The gory details:

I have a 2014 mustang and the payments are 400 a month. I owe around 19000 on it. I need help finding a way to get rid of it as soon as possible. Thanks

If he’s lucky, he might get $14,000 for it, in which case he needs to scrape up $5000, sell the ‘Stang, and turn over the proceeds to the lender. Problem solved. It’s not the solution he wants, but it’s the solution that actually works.

Of course, there’s always Chapter 7, which has, shall we say, certain disadvantages.

But what bothers me is the blithe assumption that there’s some way to “get out of the loan early” without serious consequences. Life doesn’t work quite that way. (At least, it never has for me, and I admit to occasional bouts of presumptuousness.) Unfortunately, a substantial sector of automotive retailing is reliant upon luring people with no money into the showrooms.

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The opposite of new-car smell

I don’t really blame this guy for taking the Anonymous option:

Can an insurance company sell a salvaged car if someone died in it, and if so, do they have to tell you?

Now houses, that’s a whole ‘nother matter:

In California, sellers must reveal if a death in the home has occurred anytime in the past three years, including death by natural causes (although certain types of deaths, like those from AIDS, cannot be disclosed). And if a buyer comes out and asks about a death that occurred at any time, even longer than three years ago, the seller is required to provide a truthful response.

I submit that there are going to be times when “How the hell do I know?” is the most truthful response available.

In Alaska and South Dakota, only murders or suicides must be disclosed if they happened within the past year. In other states the laws are less black and white; a seller may need to disclose the information only if a buyer asks.

Still, we’re talking houses. Cars? Nobody gives a damn, except this poor, superstitious soul. I can say only that it’s entirely possible for a car to be totaled, rebuilt and resold without anyone having died in it.

Now if it smells like someone died in it within the last couple of days, maybe there’s a reason to inquire.

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This much and no farther

This is a swell idea on the face of it:

Starting around 2002, BMW implemented a system called Condition Based Service (CBS), which is a set of algorithms that calculates how often service such as oil changes should be performed. The system uses sensors and mileage to make the calculations, allowing them to increase the time between service intervals without any detrimental effects on the vehicle.

Since most people would rather drink bleach than take a car in for service, this should be considered a boon — until it stops working altogether:

Owners and technicians have discovered that once a post-2002 BMW hits 300,000 kilometers (186,411 miles), the counter no longer functions and owners will no longer be notified of their next service.

Then again, how many recent Bimmers ever acquire mileage like that? Most BMWs these days are leased, which means the typical happy owner is going to give it up in 3 years/36,000 miles — by wacky coincidence, the mileage at which BMW stops providing free maintenance on its new cars.


This is no time to be driving

The Instamotor folks crunch some traffic-safety numbers, and some of them are a bit surprising. For example:

Looking at the number of fatalities by the time of day, we found that the safest times during the weekday was always the early morning hours of 12 a.m. — 6 a.m., with the safest time for both men and women being Tuesday morning.

However, this drastically changed for the weekend. The same time in men skyrocketed on Saturday and Sunday morning, with the highest (about 1,100 fatalities) on Sunday morning. For women, however, the most dangerous time to drive was actually on Thursday afternoon, with the peak of accidents coming between the hours of 12 p.m. — 6 p.m.

Got to finish the errands before the weekend? They won’t speculate, and I can’t say as I blame them, but I can say that I am somewhat taken aback.

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My grandfather’s Oldsmobile

The manual transmission, in this part of the world anyway, is almost dead. Perhaps it’s instructive to remember that the automatic wasn’t always the default:

And in those days, GM would happily build slushboxes for everyone; smaller automakers (Hudson, Nash, Kaiser-Frazer) without the resources to develop their own transmissions came calling on the General. Even Ford bought Hydra-Matic and installed it in Lincolns; the lesser Ford-O-Matic was a licensed Borg-Warner design.

(Via Dusty Old Thing.)

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Sort of covered

I am generally distrustful of extended warranties on automobiles, which I have characterized in the past along the lines of “paying $3000 in advance so you don’t have to pay $3000 later.” Jack Baruth is a bit more forgiving:

As has been the case since time immemorial, and discounting various stunts by people who purchase warranties on hood-rich shitty used exotics with questionable or nonexistent histories, these extended agreements/service contracts/whatevers are best considered as a way to fix certain costs ahead of time, with the understanding that in doing so one stands a very good chance of spending more money than one would have otherwise. It’s possible to swap a junkyard V6 into an eight-year-old Accord for about $4,000. If you want to spend $2,400 against the chance of that $4,000, then I don’t think I would call you a fool for doing so.

As a Ford salesman, I rarely pushed the Ford ESP plan, even though it’s actually very good and it will dramatically reduce your cost of ownership for an even moderately troublesome car. The exception to this rule of mine was when I had customers who were clearly at the very edge of their financial ability to own the car they were purchasing. I explained to them that if they were struggling to make a $475 payment (or whatever) right now on a car with no problems, they’d have a much harder time making that payment and replacing a transmission at the same time. Few of them took my advice. Human beings are always unreasonably optimistic about the future. Were that not the case, nobody would ride a motorcycle or date Taylor Swift.

I bought two of these over the years. One of them was sufficiently restrictive in its terms to insure that it would seldom if ever have to pay off anything; the second, I canceled in the first year. I am not what anyone would call unreasonably optimistic. That said, I’m also not sitting by the phone waiting for Taylor Swift to call.