No. 911
August 23, 2017

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The Mercedes-Maybach.

Bill Mitchell is looking down and grinning from ear to ear.

Novi, Michigan

Flat-out ugly.

That Acura is the ugliest damn race car I have ever seen, and it ranks up there with the Pontiac Aztek as one of the ugliest cars, period.

Ted R.
Raleigh, North Carolina

Editor-in-Chief's Note: The modern racing cars in IMSA (the prototypes, specifically), IndyCar (the current car, not the improved 2018 car) and F1 are by far the ugliest in history. The dominance of aerodynamics and the overriding skew to function over form is killing the visual appeal of the sport, there's no question. -PMD

Committee design-think.

The BMW Z4 Concept has a clean-cut tail? On what planet? It looks like six different people worked on it and nobody would say no.

Kevin Kovach
Allen Park, Michigan

Editor-in-Chief's Note: I concur. I have tried to give BMW designers the benefit of the doubt but they clearly are lost in the Twilight Zone somewhere. Every single one of their production designs are relentlessly uninspired - except for the i3 (and no, the i8 isn't all that) - and their concept cars are consistently rolling abominations of about fourteen different ideas thrown together signifying nothing. The production Z4 was terrible, and the new Z4 Concept is no better. But some fan boys in the establishment automotive media are already tripping all over themselves canonizing it, which says more about the dismal state of the business than anything I can muster. -PMD

Bill would approve.

As soon as I saw the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet Concept I immediately thought of Bill Mitchell and how he tended to like design lines on a car that tapered back to single thin point much like this concept does. Bravo Mercedes Design!

Mark Weaver
Auburn Hills, Michigan


America Wide Open.

The more I pay attention to the news, the more disturbed I get. No matter your opinion on the current administration, the cacophony from the press has been hard to avoid. Between Russia, Afghanistan, Syria, North Korea, it seems that everywhere we turn, there is conflict, chaos, and vehement disagreement about the correct policy. Earlier this summer, I found the perfect tonic: a long road trip.

We loaded up the family truckster (a 200 Series Land Cruiser), and pointed it west. We drove until we got tired and then found a motel. We visited three national parks, a national memorial, a paleontological dig site, and a bunch of small museums. We joined a bunch of other Land Cruiser owners in Colorado and took our over-sized, over-weight, and over-priced SUVs offroad on trails that really challenged a novice like me. The view from a 12,000' pass in Colorado is breathtaking.

In the process, I learned some things. Spending most of the day without e-mail, Facebook, 24×7 news, etc., is blissful. There are very nice people all across this country. There is more that unites us than divides us, though you wouldn't know that listening to the news. There are great local restaurants, even it small communities. This nation is beautiful. From the farms of the Southern Tier of New York, the plains of southeast Minnesota, the badlands of South Dakota, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, above the tree-line in Colorado, we loved it all. The 200 Series Land Cruiser isn't a Wrangler, but it is capable off-road, and it is a very pleasant highway cruiser — it just eats up the miles.

Driving through remote parts of Wyoming and Colorado, it reminded me that the machinations in Washington, DC, will likely have little impact on the way of life in much of our nation. It is mostly just noise.

After 6,500 miles over three weeks, we are back home, listening to the latest “crises” on the news. I'd rather be back on the road.

Boston, Massachusetts

The tired Cruise.

Dream Cruise 2017 recap. Gridlock. Old cars parked. New cars clogging cruise lanes. Wash rinse repeat. The powers that be need to do a complete reboot of this “signature” Detroit event. It's tired, stale and frankly not worth the effort to attend. Add to it the corporate hoarding of prime viewing spots. Someone explain to me why KIA has a display on Woodward? Or why GM wastes money bringing new new Buicks when the last Buick anyone cared went away 30 years ago? The Cruise is on life support. Only the organizers don't realize it.

Plymouth, Michigan

Editor-in-Chief's Note: As I said in last week's column, the High-Octane Truth about the Dream Cruise is that it simply doesn’t ring true anymore, as unpopular as that notion might be with some around here. The spontaneity that once bubbled up organically in the early years has been replaced by manufacturer displays, manufacturer “drive-bys” (the novelty of 50 cars of the same make driving up and down Woodward Avenue was never, ever, cool - trust me), and a rigid sameness that is as predictable as the local media coverage of the event, which is nothing but a regurgitation of the last decade’s worth (at least) of stories. The Dream Cruise has been overhyped, overblown and overrated for years, just like Monterey Car Week. I reserve particular ire for some of the card-carrying members of the local media who fall over themselves trying to pump up the volume on the latest edition, when a sameness hangs over the proceedings in a giant haze of "we've seen this all before, right?" Then again, when the local media collectively defines the term journalistic “homers” it should be no surprise at all. -PMD


The automobile will go the way of the horse.

I agree that the automotive experience is the American experience, in the 20th century. But for the USA's first 125 years or so, the American experience was defined by the horse. “Go West, young man,” did not include a throaty-V8. Neither George Washington, nor Abraham Lincoln, nor Fredrick Douglass, or Susan B. Anthony ever drove a car.

We still have horses, and carriages. We still breed them, admire them, and race them. We just don't depend on them the way we did in the 18th and 19th centuries. I believe that we will still have cars, trucks, and utility vehicles in the next 100 years. Many will drive themselves. We may not depend on them the way that we have for the last 80-100 years, but they will still exist.

D. Eckhart
Chelsea, Michigan


The Ghost Concepts of GM.

The Mercedes-Maybach convertible concept at Pebble Beach reminded me of drop dead gorgeous Cadillac convertible concept that sadly was never built.

Rick H.
Indianapolis, Indiana

And GM?

Great column on the Mercedes-Maybach Cabriolet – A beautiful car. Sadly, it looks like something Harley Earl would do today. Sad that GM can't seem to unleash the designers at the Tech Center.

Steve Stepanek
Grosse Pointe, Michigan

Editor-in-Chief's Note: The two emails refer to the quandary facing GM Design and its talented designers. GM Design has been responsible for three of the industry's most stunning concepts of the last decade - the Cadillac Ciel roadster; the Cadillac Elmiraj coupe; and the Cadillac Escala introduced just last year at Pebble Beach. Any one of those machines would represent a bold and dynamic vision for a Cadillac renaissance. But unfortunately, Johan de Nysschen, the ex-Audi (and Infiniti, for a cup of coffee) honcho and now Cadillac's brand chief, doesn't share that vision. He is hard at work re-making Cadillac in Audi's image, which means those breathtaking concepts will languish in the dust bin of GM Design for the foreseeable future. I will have more on this subject in next week's issue of -PMD



I was pleased to see your thoughts on the Auction houses and some of the people who buy collector cars. As a child of the 50s and 60s I grew up with muscle cars and owned a ‘66 GTO for over 20 years. Today's prices are appalling, and I wonder how many are driven and enjoyed, and how many are garage queens hoping to sell for a profit in the future? I saw a lot of no sales at the Mecum auction over the weekend, and your words of 'greed’ rang very true.

Tom D.
Oroville, Washington

Missing link.

Criminally absent from the history of Chevy wagons is the Vega, my ride through college. True, the aluminum engines were prone to explode, as mine did memorably and hilariously in a cloud of smoke in swanky Woodside, California. And yes, the waterproofing was suspect, as my roommate discovered on a long drive after a wet winter when he found himself engulfed in a cloud of mosquitoes. But still: two doors, four on the floor, and red, red, red; my little hot rod and its folding back seat provided many happy memories, especially with an attractive companion along for the ride. Let's see an auto-pod do that.

San Francisco, California


Welcome to DownerVille, USA.

My daughter is a Millennial. When she was young, we’d explore this area in our 4×4 finding historical sites. We’d also ride around in the 911 SC with the Targa top off and her hair waving all over her face. I almost always rode her to school on a motorcycle which made her a big hit among her envious peers.

Today she’s 24. Last year she sold her car figuring it to be more of a nuisance than a convenience. She bicycles or buses around her town, perhaps occasionally taking an Uber. If offered a time share in a covered golf cart and such carts were street legal in Portland, OR, she’d like jump at the opportunity. If you gave her a production version of that Maybach, she’d complain she has nowhere to park it. Then she’d give it back to you.

That’s the Millennials. My nephew just turned 14 so he’s an iPhone generation. He’s a good deal less interested in cars and bikes than my daughter. Neither my sister (a car ‘guy’) nor I can explain either child, really. I recently got in a next gen VR set for an evaluation. I was, at first, planning on passing it on to my nephew, but now realize, if I did so, we’d never see him in real space again.

The coming world is not our world.

Paul Cassel
Albuquerque, New mexico