No. 788,
March 18, 2015

Follow Autoextremist




Editors' Note: If you have a comment, please include your name or initials (AND YOUR HOMETOWN TOO, PLEASE). We do not print email addresses. If you want to read previous issues, click on "Next Entry" on the bottom of each section. Thank you.


It all went wrong.

My wife and I quit going to the Monterey Peninsula events when the luxury cars and auctioneers attached themselves to the events and tried to take the focus away from the Concours and Vintage Car Races. They were successful in creating a cluster- !@#$%^&* of major proportions that I refuse to attend or support. The concours and vintage race snobbery were barely tolerable, the auctioneers and luxury car suck-ups make it completely unbearable. Let's look at the vehicles shall we? Audi and Lexus have grilles on them that make large mouth bass and carp look good. BMW was supposed to be a driver's machine, now they have a minivan. Mercedes probably sells more SUVs than cars, so the entire luxury market is more about brand than just a luxury car any more. I think they all have lost focus and are going away from what I would consider a luxury car, which to me is quiet, powerful, elegant looking and comfortable. Cadillac in my view is a decade ahead of Lincoln. Since the loss of Mercury it seems Ford is just mailing it in with Lincoln. In closing, these manufacturers think they are hip because of their associations with events. The only ones they are impressing are themselves and of course those fools you speak of who are easily separated from their money. The auction whores who have pretty much ruined the collector car market is a letter for another time.

Chris Cuzynski
Alta Loma, California


It's not very good, is it?

Amen on SXSW.  It used to be an annual trek for me - my buddy and I could see quite a few incredible bands, new and old, known and undiscovered.  Then about 15 years ago it became The Scene, and once the black-clothed Hollywood types jetted-in it became a caricature of itself, priced beyond the common man and blotted out by corporate sponsorship.  

But Austin has become that way too.  Once relatively bohemian, the tech crowd, God bless them, don't want you blocking their sunshine.  "Keep Austin Weird" is the mantra... but that ship sailed long ago.  Progress I guess.

Dave M.
Houston, Texas


Greed is good.

My opinion on the state of the luxury car and sports car market is that the business people have taken over. What was once an affair of the heart is now dollars and cents. Ferraris were built to satisfy our love of sports cars, performance and beauty. Porsches were built to satisfy our love of sports cars but with Teutonic efficiency and world class performance. Mercedes-Benz car were built to a standard that no other car was built to and drove that way. And BMWs were The Ultimate Driving Machine. Never mind all the other brands that could be mentioned here as well. But today we have Marchionne, Zetsche, Müller, and Reithofer in charge and they have to produce numbers for the shareholders. Never mind that technology has allowed the competition from Japan and the USA to catch up. The good old days are gone and we have to get used to it.

Regarding The Quail and the state of the collector car and auction markets, that is the best of the free market at work. I wish I could afford the prices being paid or had the talent to be able to restore a vehicle to better than perfection but as long as there are buyers with deep pockets and cash I will watch in awe.

Elliott G.
Budd Lake, New Jersey

Speaking from experience.

I'm the lead PR guy at Meijer, but came to Meijer (and Grand Rapids) in 2007 after 22 years in auto PR, working with GM, Ford and Michelin. My Dad was a GM engineer for 33 years so I grew up in the industry. I can't tell you how many times I was involved in these types of events and muttered the same things under my breath that you wrote in this week's post. I engage a large PR firm here at Meijer and was at their offices recently and the kids on the digital team were excitedly talking about how they were going to SXSW... I said to them, "Isn't that a music festival?" They gave me the "you're out of touch, old man" look.  

Frank Guglielmi
Grand Rapids, Michigan

From the "Ham-Fisted Operators" File.

Even ignoring St. Elon's latest bout of foot-in-mouth disease, there is a kernel of truth in there...  I have to believe that if the automobile had been invented in modern times, nobody would be allowed to own one except for people with extensive training. As Richard Parry-Jones supposedly said, "Today's cars are the most complex machines ever to be placed in the hands of inexpert operators."

Jim Z.
Detroit, Michigan

A panacea for the addicted?

Personally, I would not want a self driving car for my own use. I enjoy driving!! But for those addicted people who would rather play on a Smart Phone than actually drive a car it would be a GREAT!! For them and society!! There are WAAAAAY too many distracted drivers on the roads these days. This results in tailgating, the inability to stay in a lane, driving super slow while reading, zoning out at red lights etc., etc., etc. And accidents!!

Frank S.
Rochester, Michigan


A "thank you" to JT.

Thanks to John Thawley for his review and photos from the Revs Institute.  As I happen to be going to Florida in early April, I made reservations immediately after reading his article.  Can't wait!  Thanks for the tip!  Still haven't managed to make it to an event at Sebring yet, but I'll keep working on it.

Dave G.
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

The Elon Effect.

Musk has a point...  Likely he was stuck behind a few Camrys on the Foothill Freeway by Pasadena... you know?  Those with "Longo Toyota" license plate frames driven by people whose previous car was a bicycle in the People's Republic. Who knows, perhaps, Musk even got rear ended. I sort of agree that a big chunk of the populace has no business driving an automobile.  Have you ever done the NB Harbor to WB Santa Monica connector road?  From First World to Third world in a 270 degree turn.  From Benzes to Trucketas.  Ay!

Irvine, California

The path of least resistance.

I remember when the action of a corporation to "attach" itself to the cool or the prevailing trend were tempered by the fear of being  a "sellout".  Having your music done by the latest Top 40 Wondergroup or having you ad painted by Peter Max were the surest sign of the older generation desperately, but always a step behind,  trying to show they understood the market.  Nothing changes. It is always easier to throw some money at the "image" events than the time, effort, and cash to make the right product.

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada


What about the rest of us?

Self-driving cars will be great for all those who look on their Toyotas as just another beige appliance. And for all the minivan moms who have to be on the phone while driving the kids to school/practice/the mall etc. And for the octogenarians who look through the steering wheel to drive while they pull out in traffic from side streets without looking. And for the 20-somethings who never seem to look up from their devices anyway. For the rest of us who actually appreciate cars and like to drive? Not so much.

Grosse Pointe, Michigan


From the "Not Good" File.

Will piloting your own vehicle be outlawed when robots become safer drivers than humans (as they will, and soon)? It's doubtful. Guns surpassed cars in 2014 in leading to fatalities, but if anything, gun control laws are becoming less stringent, not more. We Americans don't like the Gummint telling us what we can or cannot do with our cars or our firearms.

No, what I would worry about isn't driving being outlawed, it's liability. If a self-driving car is a hundred times safer (as it will be and soon), wouldn't an accident caused by a human taking the wheel be deemed the result of recklessness? As in insanely expensive to insure against? As in the Geico gecko says no no when you try to turn off auto-pilot?

As with health care, the death panels for drive your own will be staffed not with bureaucrats from Big Government, but from Big Insurance. And you won’t be in Good Hands unless you keep 'em off the wheel.

San Francisco, California


The Revs Instutute.

Having served as a volunteer at the Revs Institute in Naples, Florida, this past winter I can add an enthusiastic "Right on!" to John Thawley's comments, and to his superb photo album.

My "duty" (if that's a synonym for "pleasure") consisted largely of spending time in the collection, giving directions and answering visitors' questions. I began my service believing I was a fairly knowledgeable and experienced car guy, but soon learned that many of my fellow volunteers' (and visitors') credentials far outstrip mine!

There are of course larger car museums. But to my knowledge at least, none is more breathtaking than the Collier Collection at the Revs Institute. I recommend a visit in the strongest terms.

Bob G.
Massena, New York

On second thought, no thanks.

Working in technology brings one item to mind, all this great hardware is at the mercy of software.  How can we be certain there are no bugs in the code?  Look at Toyota with the memory corruption issues in PCM code of the past.  How will big brother take to the task of ensuring that all the code is error free.   Will this be decided by a bunch of bureaucrats in Washington who can’t even keep track of e-mail archives.  All kind of scary if you ask me.

I see some real merit with self driving cars, especially in some very congested areas or on long road trips.  Keeping traffic moving in congestion can really help.  Let that distracted driver now concentrate on the phone call, text, or maybe an e-mail or two.

Now for reality, if the average age of the car in the US as of last June was 11.4 years, how long will it take  before we are all driving shinny pods that get us where we are going via the Google or Apple interface.  Looks like 20+ years.  Thanks but no thanks, I’ll push that 3rd pedal in and pick the next gear.

Round Rock, Texas