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July 2010

Car Disgust: BMW 3-series

This is probably one of the most challenging posts I have ever attempted to compose. How does one go about dissing perhaps the most revered sport sedan of the last 30 years, arguably one of the finest automobiles in the world at present? And I have labeled it an Objet d'isgust?

Well, it's complicated. Often when one attempts to dissect one's own feelings about a particular object, 1983-1991-E30-BMW-BMW-Heritage-1especially negative feelings, it's more a matter of self-discovery than anything else. And part of that self-discovery is determining the origin of those negative feelings, which often arise from sources that have nothing whatever to do with the object of hate. In addition, I've often found that my perceptions of certain people, places, or things say more about how they've been presented to me rather than as a product of my own thought process. And once all the navel-gazing is said and done, I sometimes end up realizing my hate has more to do with my own preconceptions than with any inherent qualities of said object.

And so we come to the BMW, particularly the 3 series. My feelings towards BMWs have always been kind of schizophrenic. On the one hand, I've always tended to see them as the quintessential self-satisfied Yuppie-mobile; on the other, as a largely objectively high quality automobile. How to reconcile the two? Well, if you can stand a little amateur psychologizing and '80s pop culture references with your Car Lust history, join me below the fold as I delve into the swirl of emotions surrounding this car and others like it, all without (hopefully) ticking a lot of people off.

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Graham "Sharknose"

Sharks are formidable creatures, simultaneously beautiful and terrifying, one of nature's little subtle reminders that you are not necessarily at the top of the food chain. It's no wonder we find them compelling. I'm old enough to remember the excitement that ensued when Jaws first hit the theaters, and the shark has been a pop-culture icon ever since. One of the cable channels likes to celebrate an annual "Shark Week," serving up seven straight days of documentaries about sharks, with spectacular and sometimes lurid footage of sharks swimming, sharks jumping out of the water, sharks attempting to eat the camera operator, and so on.

You can think of today's presentation as Car Lust's attempt to serve up a few shark bytes of our own. Our subject "shark" lives on dry land, it probably won't bite you, and Steven Speilberg will never make a summer blockbuster about it . . . although, if you use your imagination, . . . okay, cue the menacing theme music . . .

Just when you thought it was safe to go back on the highway comes . . . Sharknose!

This shark, swallow you whole. Little shakin', little tenderizin', an' down you go.

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July 26 Weekly Open Thread

As always, this is the place for the random conversation that doesn't belong anywhere else. Sadly, I don't have another horned man picture to run this week.

--Chris H.

Great Commercials--"This or That"

Kia's latest commercial for the Soul compact features their posse of giant anthropomorphic hamsters kickin' it giving props to their ride. The soundtrack is a catchy bit of old-school (1994-vintage) rap, "The Choice is Yours" by Black Sheep.

Kia's first hamster commercial won a 2010 Silver EFFIE Award from the American Marketing Association. This one is easily its equal, and right up there with the "Joyride Dream" ad for the Sorrento in entertainment value--absurd and comical, yet utterly convincing. I don't know if the hamsters are CGI or animatronics or actors in hamster suits, but for one full minute there, they have me completely sold on the idea that there is, somewhere, an inner-city neighborhood (centered on Hamsterdam Avenue) populated entirely by giant hip-hop hamsters in hoodies who bust mad rhymes.

I think I'll get with this, 'cause this is kinda phat.

--C-Dog's Owner in the house

2010 MCA Grand National

This year The Mustang Club of America held its Grand National show in Bellevue, Wash., right across Lake Washington from Seattle. It was sponsored by Mustangs Northwest and was held this past weekend. The MCA judged show was on Saturday, followed by the Roundup and All-Ford picnic on Sunday. The judged show had about GreenBeauty225 Mustangs, and more than a thousand Fords showed up the next day. For the Mustang fan (that would be me) it was pretty near heaven on Earth.

Of course, you can get pictures of hot Mustangs, Boss 302s, Shelbys, Mach I's, etc., at any old site. I  managed to spend some time looking for particularly Car Lust-worthy specimens amongst the usual array of perfectly restored Mustangs and other Fords. And while 90 percent of the offerings were Mustangs, there were a few other Fords. Heck, there were even some Mustangs that often get overlooked when placed within a mile of a 429 Cobra Jet. I grabbed a few photos of some of the more Lust-inducing models that I particularly liked, some Mustangs, some not, and even a couple "traditional" muscle Mustangs that I thought were interesting.

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Car Lust -- the Font???

On a recent visit to a website offering free font downloads, I noticed that one of the fonts on offer was called "Ugly Cars." Curious, I clicked the link and . . .oh, WOW!

 

"Ugly Cars" is a font in which all of the letters of the alphabet have been replaced with line drawings of automobiles. It could just as easily been called "Car Lust Bold Italic," because the cars involved are the sort of offbeat, quirky, interesting rides that we gravitate toward--only some of which truly qualify as ugly. The font includes the Citroen Ami 6, AMC Gremlin, VW Thing, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Bond Bug three-wheeler, and Sebring-Vanguard CitiCar. (No SsangYong Rodius, fortunately.)

The font is the work of Galdino Otten, a very talented Brazilian graphic artist. You can see samples of his other work--magazine covers, ads, cartoons, and at least one other font--at his blog here. That's one of his illustrations at right.

If you want to download the font, go here. While the font is free, there's a PayPal link that allows you to make a donation to Mr. Otten to show your appreciation if you are so inclined.

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

 

July 19 Weekly Open Thread

As always, this is the place for the conversation that ... oh, never mind, everybody's probably already looking at the picture of the gentleman with the horns.

I don't have much in the way of suggested topics this week, but I did want to bring this news item to your attention. The young man pictured to the right allegedly tried to run his landlord down with his vehicle and now stands accused of assault with a deadly weapon. The weapon, in this case, was a 1996 Ford Windstar minivan.

There's a lot to say about this particular case, most of it based on the accused's rather peculiar body modifications. I'll let most of that go but will say in passing that I think he really needed a good hug when he was younger. If you're in the mood for some of the really good jokes on the subject, check out the article and comments on Gawker

No, what I'd like to focus on here is the accused's use of a Ford Windstar as his weapon of choice. For the last several years, we at Car Lust have been advancing the argument that minivans are more useful than just about any other vehicle on the road. Just for the record, we think extending that versatility into the realm of attempted assault is pushing things just a bit.

However, I am feeling a little more comfortable with my 2008 assertion that driving a minivan is "so counter-culture ... that it's almost punk rock." I'm not sure exactly what drew this young man to the Windstar, but if he isn't counter-culture, I'm not sure exactly who is.

--Chris H.

Face Off--1986 Porsches

Back in 1986, Road & Track ran a feature in which the staff drove and tested every available 1986 model-year Porsche. It struck me as an interesting idea in that it differed dramatically from the normal practice of extensively testing an individual car or comparison-testing similar cars across a brand. R&T didn't declare winners or losers, but the experience did provide a perspective of the manufacturer's overall offering.

It was a novel perspective, and it helped me realize that Porsche's lineup has one very curious quirk--namely, that many of Porsche's cars performed very similarly. Most car manufacturers have clearly stratified product lines with very little overlap, broken by size differences, performance disparities, or both. Porsche, on the other hand, was a little different. While it had the Porsche 924S and 944 on the low end of the performance spectrum and the Porsche 911 Turbo on the high end, there was a vast middle ground inhabited by the 944 Turbo, 911 Cabriolet, and 928S, all of which ran the 0-60 sprint within a half-second range.

This is not to say that the cars were in any way clones of each other. In fact, the most intriguing thing about the performance logjam was the fact that the three cars differed so radically in price, purpose, and technology, making each a logical choice for a different type of customer. Today's Face Off is your opportunity to make that choice. If you had been a consumer in the market for a Porsche back in 1986, with a price an object, which of these three cars would you have purchased?

Car As-Tested Price Horsepower 0-60 (seconds) Top Speed
Porsche 944 Turbo $30,820 217 6.0 155
Porsche 911 Cabriolet $41,301 200 5.7 130
Porsche 928S $50,702 288 6.3 152

[The poll widget is no longer available because Vizu.com has ceased operations.]

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Unintentional Car Lust: 1991 Honda Civic LX: Part One

P1050273Hi. My name is Rob, and I am an addict. I have car lust. When I purchased the car pictured at right, I wasn't exactly looking to buy another car. I already own a 1989 Honda Prelude Si, one of the best handling cars ever produced, and a 1995 Audi S6 Avant as a fantastic daily driver. But sometimes in life, a car finds you.

I'll preface this article by explaining my current employment situation. After experiencing the joys of graduating in the worst recession in the past 70 years or so, I learned to take work where I could get it. Currently, I am working about 75 miles away from my residence, which means I commute, quite a bit. This is all well and good, but my daily driver S6 Avant is extremely rare (one of 300 in North America) and last year alone I piled on almost 30,000 miles. Clearly, something had to be done. My roommate also happens to work at the same place that I do, so we toyed with the idea of getting a car together, purely as a commuter. We weren't dead set on getting something, but we kept our eyes open. And like I said, sometimes cars find you.

Continue reading "Unintentional Car Lust: 1991 Honda Civic LX: Part One" »

RIP, PT Cruiser

PT CruiserOn July 9, 2010, the last Chrysler PT Cruiser rolled off the production line. With the problems the car manufacturing industry has faced over the past few years, this comes as no surprise. Truth be told, I thought Chrysler quit making them a while ago. I remember when I saw my first PT Cruiser--I had such great hopes, but the vehicle never lived up to the hype. While I was never really taken by the styling, I did appreciate the attempt to at least try to style it as something other than a brick or a bubble. It had hints visually of the old skool (yes that is the correct spelling) milk trucks that would bring milk in glass bottles to every home. It had a tinge of flair from a bygone era, but it wasn't enough.

Why did the PT Cruiser die? Well, last year Chrysler sold only 18,000. The peak sales came in 2001--145,000 units. I don't know any industry in which a decline of that size would be endured for that long.

Chrysler pushed the envelope a bit, but not enough in my opinion. The first PT Cruiser was on the right path and when there was a positive response from the public, rather than build on that success, Chrysler chose to stay stagnant. That was as good as signing the death warrant on the PT; it was the vehicle that time forgot, and not in a good way. And while there were the beginnings of some unique visual cues, the underlying mechanicals were still bland Chrysler.

So, as a result, another car falls out of production. I don't think these will have a lot of collector's value, so don't go buying one to mothball in hopes it will be your grandchild's Bugatti in the barn.

With the recent spate of cars that have or will be ceasing to exist, which one do you lament the most? I'll go with the Pontiac G8.

--Big Chris

Pictured above: This is a forlorn Chevy Vega photographed by reader Gary Sinar. (Share yours)

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