Sunday, December 30, 2012

The 2012 Los Angeles International Auto Show 6

It's the Mitsubishi RAV-4!  The company is dying in the US, and this would have been just the thing around 1993.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

More food for the crusher.

Now that Christmas is over, it's time to clean up and get rid of things. Remember, when you throw things away, you have more room!

Friday, December 21, 2012

The 2012 Los Angeles International Auto Show 5

Toys are the only things at an auto show that capture the excitement of wanting a car.  You couldn't play with the Volkswagens, but you could take a turn on Ford's giant slot car set.

Real cars are just furniture with car doors.  You don't even think about driving.  After all, nobody drives indoors.  Some cars are locked shut.  They are just boring sculptures.

It is worth pointing out that Volkswagen used their toys to show off their colors.  At least part of the team opted for something besides white cars on a white background.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Seen but not photographed: BMW sedan

This one shot by on a short mountain road while I was walking a queasy dog that just saw the vet.  The car was black.  It was either a 5 or 3 series.  It was unlabeled.  It's hard to tell which car is which by the size, because all car companies bloat their cars to no end.  In any case, this one looked ok, and it had a chrome strip above the license plate.  It drove well going down the mountain.  It was fast, and it didn't make any noises betraying any strain.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A bunch of dummies in a trailer

It's hard to see in this picture, but they all have different facial features. Most likely, they are used as extras for movies.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The 2012 Los Angeles International Auto Show 3

Here's the Toyota CTS!  The front looks like the back of a Cadillac.  The back looks like, well, you decide.  It's a design exercise that reminds you to walk faster.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The 2012 Los Angeles International Auto Show 2

Here's the Fiat Trabant!  It challenges the BMW Trabant in the hatchback segment.  I suppose Fiat thinks that this looks sportier and more profitable than the Panda.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The 2012 Los Angeles International Auto Show 1

The best day to go to an auto show is the last.  While it's all about the facade, it's fun to see it come down.  The spokesmodels talk about their feet hurting. Some booths are out of brochures.  No one is as eager to sign you up for a test drive.

I had a good time as it opened, but they had to turn on the displays.  The net effect is one of exhaustion.   As I left the show, I had the presence of mind to take the above picture, but I lacked the awareness to buy something. I had cash with me, and I was hungry.  Although I haven't heard about it before, it certainly looks worth trying.  Watch for it when you're in Los Angeles.

The worst display was put on by Ford.  Blue is normally a cool, calming color.  At Ford, you get neon until you vomit.  There was a great wall of blue around everything.  The music made it worse.  It was loud and annoying, with no explanation of who it was or when it was made. Knowing what you're hearing makes it more tolerable. Ford's car display is in a rut.  Their cars look like an answer to the question, "What if Hyundai licensed their front end design from Aston-Martin?"  It's hard to believe someone asked.

The best display was put on by Chevrolet.  They have embraced their international destiny. Their spokesmodels looked like people at the finish line of a European bicycle or motorcycle race. "We're sponsoring Manchester United!" one man exclaimed.  I thought it was great.

The worst part of Chevy's display was the whiteboards behind the Sparks.  "Keep it clean and positive!" the sign said.  It looked festive, and I took a pen.  As I made my way to the whiteboard, the atmosphere became terribly judgmental.  They were just lurking.  Because I would love to visit Brazil, I wrote, "Sua terra tem palmeiras."  When I went back a few minutes later, it was gone.

The marketing teams at Mazda and Volkswagen have thrown in the towel. Most of their cars were white.  VW went further to make sure that their cars were overlooked.  The display was predominantly white.  Also, VW has a delusion of being German.  The word comes up over and over again.  Why their collection of global products should have any connection to Germany is a mystery.  I overheard someone say that one of their middle managers ate half of an apple strudel in 2005.

Volvo had the most subtle display.  Wooden flooring evoked old Sweden.  Round, uneven 4 person stools made from 1 cm strips of thick latticed sheet metal looked familiar.  After a while, it was obvious:  It was a nod to modern China, put in place for the parent company, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group. It was Bird's Nest Stadium in Beijing.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Seen but not photographed: Audi A4 2.0T

Are turbos that great, or are they a way to align numbers?  They have had some success on the racetrack but not on the street.  Newer turbochargers are supposed to be different.  In the past, they were a great way to shorten the life of your car with no real benefit.

Once again, Audi makes design look easy.  The car is a swanky and understated sedan.  Audi design is in the same league as a few tasteful exotics.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


For those of you patient enough to decode such things, the VIN is 5UXWX5C5XBLK59069.  I got as far as figuring out that it was made in the US.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Finally, an Aston-Martin that runs!

It's the Lexus (Bunch of letters)! Are they going to build it?  Have they already?  I never bothered to find out.  Still, I like the picture.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Does the Jaguar Baudet take too much from an American icon?

What is Jaguar's raison d'être? Everyone has been asking since the E-Type. Their cars should be sleek and luxurious and fast. A modern Jaguar is slightly sleeker than a Toyota Camry, and it's luxurious for those who like sitting around in their cars. The stench of freshly tanned leather is an improvement over the plastic fumes one finds elsewhere. Fast is relative but impossible. With so many cars governed around 240 kph, it's a moot point.

Now, Jaguar is headed in a different direction. Some say that their Baudet concept is a raid on America's past. Whether it works out that way remains to be seen. The Neon was the first New Beetle, and its price was truer to the roots of the original. Similarly, the Daewoo Matiz was more like the Fiat 500 than the design Fiat chose to build. The Baudet might end up being like the BMW Mini, a riff on someone else's past that brings a smile anyway.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Seen but not photographed: Chevrolet Corvette

Some cars can be described as having the pulled taffy look.  The next Corvette looks like taffy that has been left in the sun just a little too long.

Although I can't say there is anything wrong with it, it doesn't look especially right.

GM needs to put the Corvette on hiatus.  It's been done, redone and over done.  A flagship should never be in a rut.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Mini GP

Most Minis look fun, and GP is a great retro name.  I wonder about the decreasing sidewall height.  These wheels and tires look great for autocrossing, but wildly unrealistic in terms of our roads.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Seen but not photographed: 2 BMW sedans!

Good grief, these things are everywhere.  I saw two in one morning.  The first one was painted in their usual black.  They're trying out oval tail lights.  The second one was blue.  Any color is an improvement, but the shapes look like products of too many meetings.  The black one looked ok.  The front end of the blue one looks like a fish being stepped on.

I read in one source, but didn't verify with another, that Chris Bangle* said that his shapes would improve as the times caught up with him.  Such is the lament of the insecure and arrogant.  He has never been ahead of his time.  Instead of providing an exciting glimpse of the future, his work is an annoying reminder of what's wrong with the present.  His earlier work shows the defects of the past.

BMW design shows a tortured company.  They did a nice update of the Mini.  Some big Minis look like riffs on the Trabant. The only thing they are unable to successfully design is a BMW.

*Is he still at BMW?  If quality were a consideration, I would look it up.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Suddenly, it's 1996!

Bill Clinton isn't cruising by Bob Dole tonight, but BMW sets the pace with fatter and fatter SUV's.  I saw one today.  The great techniblackandwhite yawn that wrapped the thing magnified the problems.  There are so many misshapen surfaces. It's so big. Has anyone at BMW ever seen a sports sedan? Are they expecting cheap gas? 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Yesterday's Kia Fail, Camouflage

Is Kia using old GM diesels?  I saw a big sedan of theirs yesterday.  There was so much soot on the back that the license plate was almost blacked out.  Although I failed to bring my camera, it wasn't worth seeing.  If they do come out with a diesel, proceed with caution.

It looks like the brain trust at the Here-Comes-A-Prototype® camouflage company might be on to something.  I saw a couple of prototypes going the other way that had rectangles of flat paint mixed in with the usual gloss.  It looked like it might photograph badly without screaming, "Get your camera!"

I suppose the most important job at Here-Comes-A-Prototype® is putting an attractive wrap around corporate egos.  The best camouflage is ordinary paint.  Future cars aren't exciting enough to be noticed.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ridden in, but not photographed: Cadillac CTS Wagon

A relative had it for the day.  We drove around for a bit before lunch.  It's heavy, well anchored to the ground, and very powerful.  The interior was done as well as any Mercedes. 

I wonder about all the screens.  There is nothing wrong with any of them, but it looks like too much aimed at your eyes.  A flat screen can light a room.  You can put them down.

The car is very powerful.  I rode in the 6 cylinder version.  Of course, some people will want the 8 and the label that goes with it.  I wonder if they could get away with a 4.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cars as Art

Today we honor two artistic giants! On this day in 1838 Georges Bizet was born.  He composed the opera Carmen.   He died in 1875.  Six years later, Pablo Picasso was born!    Neither one of them was ever accorded the respect and pomposity of a Concours d'Elegance!  Sometimes, life needs an irony coordinator.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Seen but not photographed: Big Audi Sedan

Most car companies are hopelessly adrift.  They have elaborate, dissonant design languages that couldn't be explained in a semester of lectures and exams.  Some have been making their emblems bigger and bigger.  Still others try to build synergy with other brands*.

Audi stands alone, and Volkswagen is a close second.  This Audi sedan needed no explanation.  From a distance, it was a beautiful Audi.  As it got closer, there were no disparate elements that were the result of trying too hard or an approval process with too many stages. Audi is the essence of good design.  While there is a lot of hard work, the result looks easy and obvious.

*Achieving such a goal is impossible.  If you need synergy, you don't have anything to begin with.  Both brands will look worse.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Mercedes Coupe

Although cars are faster and quicker than ever, they're becoming appliances.  Is Mercedes ahead of their time, or are they giving up?  Here they are in an appliance colored two-tone:  Stainless steel and black.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Did you ever wonder why cars have labels like V8, Hybrid, AWD and so on? It's because nobody would know the difference otherwise.

Unless you have extraordinary needs on a regular basis, such things will not be apparent to anyone. You might as well buy the cheap variation.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Cadillac Ciel

What are the internal politics like for car design?  It's hard to tell from the outside.  We know that GM has a long history of making a splash at auto shows with designs that will never happen.  

I wonder if this is good or bad for designers.  Is an auto show at least an achievement, or is it a hanging out to dry?  Did it used to be different?  Auto show prototypes used to fool everyone into thinking that car companies weren't anachronisms.  They made headlines.  Now, few people bother to look at them.

Even at Pebble Beach, the Ciel didn't attract much attention.  Getting a clear shot was very easy. 

I wonder if any industry people watched the crowd movement.  People went down the middle of the walkways, glancing at the cars.  Occasionally, some would turn left or right to pick up a free water bottle before moving on.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Seen but not photographed: The Giant Kia Spectra

 It looks like it could be the next Dodge Charger*.  The D3 (Formerly the Big 3) is prone to making bold statements without learning the language. Chrysler tends to be the worst. Also, it looks like a riff on the Charger they have now.  It's an outsized, bulbous thing, that looks most like a Spectra Coupe.  I believe all the Spectras sold here had 4 doors.  Anyway, the tailfins of the 80s are poised for a comeback!  Yes, this car doesn't just have a spoiler, but a giant table on the trunk raised high, waiting for a matching set of barstools!  I would have noticed it, even without the disguise job from the Here-Comes-A-Prototype!® car camouflage company.  This time, it was a wrap of swirling black and white lines, which can only be described as a techniblackandwhite yawn.  Painting it in a real color will help, but not very much.

*Of course, at the rate car companies copy each other, it could be a car from anyone.  By going into the SUV business, Porsche spectacularly forgot their language.  Volkswagen parodies theirs and chases Ford with the Amarok. Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti have all made the same disturbing transition from sought after to vulgarity.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Why font geeks don't have bigger meetings.

They post signs, but no one can read them.

Does anyone know what this is?  I could tell it was a modified Kia, but nothing beyond that.  I suspect it might be a disability conversion.  The others I have seen clearly mark their vehicles, but they don't change the original emblems.  I tried searching for whatever the letters on the back might be, but I came up with nothing.  If you know what it is, please comment.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Seen but not photographed: Small Audi Wagon

Right now, Audi is the car for style.  This one got everything right.  I'm not sure if it's a new body style or not.  Sometimes, you can't tell when a subtle update happens.  It could happen with Audi, which is on a roll.

There was no name on the car.  It was obviously an A something.  I wonder if their A car names will run into the worst named products of all time* in the same way that Peugeot will eventually run into Boeing by making a 707.

*Airbus.  If aviation was ever glamorous, that was ended by this company.  "Well, it's a bus with wings and..."

Friday, September 21, 2012

Ford Mustang Convertible

One of the interesting things about wandering around Pebble Beach is the prototypes that show up.  Here's a Mustang with a leaky gas port, such as one finds on an early 60s Plymouth Valiant.  If Ford can't make their show cars look good, you have to wonder about what they're selling.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Lost Europeans

These pictures were taken in Arizona.

The D3 automakers aren't the only ones helping the shift of the Latin American market to Europe. Here is a SEAT from Spain and what I think is a VW Polo.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fisker Karma

Of all the new cars on this blog, this is the newest.  Incredibly, I have seen and photographed 2 of them.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

New New Mini

I saw another version of this retro car in a parking lot.  This one was a Cooper with a black roof and a British racing green body.  The interior is dark with some light piping.  It looks like the Mini is going even further upscale.  I would have photographed it, but I didn't have my camera with me.  Anyway, here's the VIN: WMWSU3C5XCT257799


Friday, August 24, 2012

Food for the Crusher

Car shows are for arty people who either don't like conventional art or the art world.  While few say anything good about the art world, the judgement of art itself is subjective.  In any case, museums and other arbiters of such things have, on occasion, put vehicles within their hallowed walls.  The idea of cars being valid as art got me thinking along different lines.

Are exotics and classics valid as cars?  Ferraris and the like often get full restorations after 30,000 miles.  How bad does a car have to be to need that?  I suppose the prancing horse emblem is appropriate.  They're like Thoroughbreds, useless, expensive animals pampered and nursed to no end that occasionally enter races between injuries. The owners of exotics are a flashy, stressed bunch.  With forced joy, they drive around and talk to each other in loud voices.  The drama in the back of their minds is on their faces as they wait for the next spectacular breakdown and accompanying bill.  Even for high rollers, it's a bit much.

The events around Monterey have gone from being a gathering of local hobbyists to a forum for retentives. Perfectionism runs wild.  Bolts that no one can see are lined up perfectly.  Some people even color sand.  If you color sand you're in one of three categories:  A. You're working in the business.  B.  You own a Deusenberg.  You might take it to someone in the "A" category.  C. You need a life.

Classic cars are often large weights that sit on plexiglass disks and generate income for auto transporters.  They just go from their heated garages to car shows and back.  A classic on the road is exciting. A bunch of them lined up can be too much of a good thing.  Too many of the same ones is a used car lot.  Like exotics, classics can be treated to frame-up restorations every ten years.

To answer the above question, exotics and classics are valid as cars.  The DMV has spoken. Such things rival boats in generating hard work and loss of resources.  Most people work to bring money in, but that's otro cantar.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Mystery Meat

What's this?  My guess is either a Mercedes or a Hyundai.  Maybe it's a BMW.  Most of their prototypes are black.  It doesn't make any difference, but it's fun to speculate.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Chevy Meriva

While much has been written about how Detroit gave away the US market, their loss of Latin America is even more spectacular. They used to own it. Now, they have a presence, but their US products are a sideline. The streets of places like Mexico City are filled with the products of their European and Asian subsidiaries and partners. While Latin America is a major producer, it is also a major importer.

Things have changed so much that this Chevy, photographed in the US, was the most foreign car on the lot.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Volkswagen Jetta TDI Wagon

Here's another Volkswagen from Puebla, Mexico.  I wonder if this is unusual for a prototype, or if things are shifting. While Mexico is an important market, I can't help but remember auto shows in the past.  Suzuki imports from different places, but their show cars were always from Japan.

The VIN decoders I find are always out of date by a few years.  The fourth digit indicates a sedan or base model.  Having ruled out that it's a sedan, I doubt it's a base model. Prototypes are made to test everything possible, and they are made to impress. Similarly, the best I could do for the fifth digit was a 2 liter Golf GTI engine rated at 115 hp. So much for 2006.

Although I like VW styling, I don't know it well. I wonder if this is a mule with, with something other than a turbodiesel under hood.  Also, I wonder how much of their product development has shifted out of Germany.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

2012 VW Superbeetle again

Or maybe it's another year, but it was made in 2012. Anyway, here are a couple more pictures.

What would modern cars look like if form followed function? The answer is somewhere else.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


What Jimmy Durante said about show business applies even more to car companies:  "Everybody wants to get into the act."  It doesn't appear that there is anything wrong with the car, but it comes after many others of the same type.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

2nd Generation Focus

Globalization makes it harder for car companies to lie, but the same lies keep coming. While the rest of the world got an updated Focus, the US got a long extension of the first generation. I never saw an explanation of why the 2nd generation wasn't made in the US.

The explanation I read in several places for not importing it was that it wouldn't be profitable to sell a European car here, because of the exchange rates. These 2nd generation cars are both from Mexico, where currency problems are worse. I looked at the VINs on several of them. All of them were made in Europe.

The current generation is supposed to be about the same throughout the world. Is it?