No. 744,
April 23, 2014

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All hail Idiot Boy and yes, it's possible we've reached that point.

Somehow, those NYC Auto Show guys have forgotten the basic facts of life in this game and I get the impression that most of the product designers are running on empty/fumes.

On another subject, I give Mary Barra 1 year at most. And how can the Feds help but not prove their Idiot Boy knew about the switch fiasco - and handed it to Mary? This should blow-up well (really, how could he NOT know ?).

And when GM tries to hide behind "that was the old GM, and now we're immune..." , I bet the public will not let them get away with that, on THEIR money.

Yep, you could be right = end of GM, or have we degenerated to nobody gives a shit?

Chuck S.
Cleveland, Ohio

Ch, ch, ch, changes... and U-G-L-Y.

On the NY Auto Show:  In the automotive industry, as is sadly true for just about anything today, manufacturers are not making changes because they should, but because they can...

Oh, and that WEC Toyota must be the UGLIEST Sports Car ever built.

Joe's Pond, Vermont

He seconds that emotion.

That Toyota TS040 Hybrid must be the ugliest car in the history of motor sport.

James Ford
Innisfil, Ontario, Canada

Turn those frowns upside down?

So the new Sonata might be a "giant yawn" but I applaud them for having the gravitas to step off the path taken by other automakers towards ever more aggressive, angry looking cars.  The new Toyota Camry, with its angry fish mouth partly cribbed from another automaker, appears to be a desperate attempt towards visual excitement in the wrong type of automobile.  This yearning for "excitement" has given us a Toyota 4Runner so jarring in the front that one would need to approach from behind when in polite company.  My 2008 4Runner still gets admiring looks and won't be traded in for another until Toyota -- and other automakers - can get over the angry face fad.

ALbany, New York

"Driving in its purest form" as someone once said.

Your comment about the first MX-5 Miata as being the best struck a note with me. I have long felt the same. The following Miata iterations were enlarged and softened to appeal to more buyers, thereby conflicting with the original mission of a light, nimble, inexpensive roadster. A roadster that any Joe or Jane could afford and it delivered the experience of open top touring with reliabillty and panache'.

The drop top on these cars was a joy! As person who owned and restored a Triumph TR6 with a cranky, finger-pinching top, the design of the Miata top was revaltion. Open and close it while sitting in the driver seat, easy as can be. And the handling? Who cares if the tires were 14" 60 series skins. No, they wouldn't pull 1-G in a slalom, but so what? The narrow tires were part the majic that made the cars so nimble and easy to point.

I will own one of these before I die.

Jim Jones
Crabwell Corners, Missouri

An IV of Acura Kool-Aid, to be exact.

Please address a note to Acura with the following from your column... perhaps addressed to Mike Accavitti. Hoping he has time to read it while he is on a Kool-Aid break.

"In short, I caught a lot of car companies chasing their tails at the show, ignoring the two most enduring tenets of the business, which are:

1. It’s about The Product. It always has been and it always will be too.

2. Design is still the Ultimate Initial Product Differentiator. If you don’t have it, you can’t hide it. And if, as a manufacturer, you go all vanilla hoping to offend the fewest people, you’ll probably end up attracting the fewest people as well.

And if there’s a third, it’s this: There are no Magic Beans to be found in this business.

Instead it’s about designing, engineering and building fundamental product goodness and having the focused consistency not to waver from that mission.

It’s about creating products that are emotionally compelling to look at, fun to drive and rewarding to own."

Tom Y.
The Motor City


Advice for designers.

If you can't picture yourself pulling what you're working on out of a junkyard 30 years from now and spending far more than it could ever be worth to get it back on the road... You're not done yet.

Spring Grove, Illinois

A different time, a different era.

MGW's piece about his Dad and the 1966 Mustang may be the best letter you've ever had.  It captures the meaning of a car to men in their teens and beyond.  It also shows the power of the Mustang and the modern automobile on the psyche of the American dream, something that most of the current gang in charge of the GM tower doesn't seem to get.

Evanston, Illinois (formerly Dearborn)

It's simple: We wouldn't.

"Sensual as a coupé - visionary as an SUV," says Gorden Wagener, Head of Design at Mercedes-Benz. Oh, how I love how these manufacturer PR boffins get creative in describing what's basically an ungainly mishmash of shapes, to wit: "The Concept Coupé SUV stands out thanks to its extreme proportions and in doing so interprets our hallmark Mercedes coupé design idiom perfectly. With its superior sportiness it conveys a sense of modern luxury and aesthetic aspirations of sensual clarity," continues Wagener.

Aren't you glad you don't have his job? What would you write about something that looked like that.. and keep your job?

Pete Madsen
Olalla, Washington

Let's skip the good and the bad, and get straight to the ugly.

WTF is that "thing" posing as a race car in "The Line" this week?  The caption describes it as some sort of Toyota (figures) hybrid thingie.  I thought the Porsche 919 was bad, but this is the most atrocious insult to automotive racing design ever conceived.  It looks like part Edsel, part blue whale, part Cessna.  (Not to insult the Edsel; I like the Edsel!)  If this abomination is the future of auto racing, leave me out.  No wonder racing is dying.  Whoever designed that thing ought to make a trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum and reacquaint himself with some of the most beautiful and graceful racing cars ever created.

Dave G.
Calgary, Alberta, Canada


The most special car in the world.

It was 1980. I was 16. Busy kid, involved in every music program the school offered. Early morning rehearsals. Late afternoon, early evening practices. Weekend gigs. I needed a car. Even my parents, who both worked, knew I needed a car -- I didn't even have to beg! There was no way they could get me everywhere I needed to be (as well as my younger brother, who was a 4-sport athlete, with year-round practices and games region-wide).

I knew my dad was out looking for a good deal on a fixer-upper each day after he got off work. Not that we were poor; but we certainly weren't rich. Mom and Dad made a dollar stretch, and Dad wrenched everything himself. If something - anything - needed to be fixed or built, he figured it out.

Many nights, I'd wonder what he'd end up finding. I knew it wasn't going to be anything fancy, or super cool. Please don't let it be a Pacer I'd pray before falling asleep. I'd wake up and my next wish would be: please don't let it be a Chevette. Of course, I knew I'd be grateful for any set of wheels. But what good is reading Road and Track when you're a kid if you can't dream about cool cars?

I remember when Dad drove it up into the driveway. It was still in its factory gold-green paint (I think it was called Sauturne Gold) with a black vinyl roof and black interior. A 1966 Ford Mustang. There was plenty of rust rot in the fenders and quarters, the trunk floor was Swiss cheese. The rockers and passenger front footwell were nasty. And there were some pretty sizable engine components in the back seat, packed in a box.

The most beautiful basket case I'd ever seen.

Dad and I (or mostly Dad, with me assisting and watching and learning) worked all summer on that car. We ordered replacement body parts for the worst pieces. We patched and repaired what we could. Dad tore down then rebuilt the motor. I learned the fine art of replacing brakes and brake lines, fuel lines, and muffler installation. I sanded, and sanded, and sanded some more. When we were done, it was a beautiful car. It still had issues, but we'd get to those, he promised.

And we did, each summer, tackling a new project as we restored the Mustang further. We had big plans for the summer of 83, and we'd get started the week after I graduated high school. Maybe we could drop in a V8, make it a total sleeper! Dad said maybe we could start looking for another Mustang to restore: his dream car would be to find a black 65 convertible with the white top and white interior.

But Dad died that spring. Heart attack during his morning run. And like that, he was gone.

I still have the memories of that car and the time we spent together, that 1966 gold Mustang with the black top. That car will be forever my most favorite car in the world. Sadly, a year after Dad died, Mom sold the Mustang. It still had issues, and without Dad to help me sort it out, it was beyond my skill set -- and certainly, beyond my finances, especially with college. I remember when a father and his teenage son came to our house, bought it, and drove it away. I took some solace in that. Maybe that's what old Mustangs are for: fathers and sons (or daughters).

Saw a '66 in gold/black a couple years ago in traffic. Like a crazy person, I pulled a U-turn and raced to catch up. When the driver stopped at a convenience store, I jumped out, too. After assuring him I wasn't a nut or a robber, I explained that I'd had that exact same car years ago. He gladly showed it off to me, even let me sit in the driver's seat. Even the smells were the same. I told him to name me a price. What would he take? Just shoot me a fair deal and we'll drive straight to my bank, right now -- it's just down the road.

He shook his head and smiled. Sorry. Not for sale. He was saving it for a grandson. Took my number and said he'd keep an eye out for other 66's in gold/black.

Probably for the best. Don't know how I'd be able to see that gold and black Mustang in my garage every day and not get a lump in my throat.

So, happy birthday Mustang. It's not every car that can say it helped shape someone's life, and is a rolling testament to a son's love for his father, and a father's love for his son. Just special cars can claim that. And for me, the Mustang is the most special car in the world.

St. Charles, Illinois