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September 2011

September 26 Weekly Open Thread - What's in a Name?

Welcome back to the back corner of the Car Lust Garage. We've got it all: root beer, nachos, goose liver pâté, jarring transitions, random topics, and friendly conversation. What's on your mind?

I had a little fun in a post a couple weeks ago making up names for the cars sold by the hypothetical Hafner Motors: the "Penguin" minivan, "Conure" roadster, and the "Parakeet X" sports coupe. Soon after it was published, Chris Hafner sent me an e-mail in which he declared that it wasn't just a "Parakeet X," it was a "Hafner Parakeet Premium Turbo X Brougham (Bill Blass/Reebok Edition)" and don't you forget it!

That got me thinking about car names....

Continue reading "September 26 Weekly Open Thread - What's in a Name?" »

Cars... for men?

Like the new(ish) Leaf commercial, there are a couple of other spots out now that struck me as both having a common theme (if not product) that brings up a topic I've contemplated for quite a while but could never quite figure out an angle by which to approach it. By "angle" I mean a way I could get it past the editors and not get slammed in the comments for being a VILE SEXIST PIG.

Err, anyway. I thought these two ads make for an interesting contrast in how each attempts to associate MetroRetro men with cars and also the particular male idiom each shoots for. The first goes with more of a modern man, maybe even a "metrosexual", while the second goes the "retrosexual" route. And they're both taking something of a bold non-feminine (though not anti-feminine) stance: We're selling to Men. Competing versions of Men, but Men nonetheless. They both say something about what society is going through at the moment, at least as far as pop culture is concerned, and I think it's worthwhile to look at it from our own little Car Lusty angle.

Do they work? Are they infuriating? You be the judge. 

Continue reading "Cars... for men?" »

September 19 Weekly Open Thread: "TopGear USA" Now

TopGear USA 9 17 11 The second season (All eight shows) of TopGear USA ended last night. No Cadillacs went airborne this go-round, no cars were filled with water, but a Honda CR-X got squashed, and a Benz almost made it up to San Francisco's Twin Peaks. They even mentioned "My Mother The Car."

The truth is, I'm really starting to like the show but with some reservations, of course. I would like to see a cast change; I still think these guys look like they just stepped out of the same frat house. More diversity, perhaps even a host of the fairer sex, might raise interest levels somewhat.

I'm not a fan of the new opening either. We now have "The Driver," "The Expert," and "The Wrecker." What's that all about? Have these guys even been on the air long enough to be typecast at all? Hopefully those nicknames won't reappear on the next batch of shows.

I thought their high school cars episode was hilarious. Repurchasing the (equivalent) first cars like the hosts had in high school was a great idea. The challenges were fun. And what I found most amazing was that all three vehicles, different as they were, were front wheel drive.

The show is still finding its pace. No, they're not there yet, but they're getting closer. So now, at 9:00 Central Time on Sundays, I'm in front of the TV watching The History Channel.

Has your opinion of the new show hardened or softened after two seasons? Will you tune in for Season Three? Do you have any suggestions for the show or hosts?

And in addition to being cable TV critics, this Car Lust Weekly Open Thread is also the place for any other random, off-topic conversations that just don't belong anywhere else.

--That Car Guy (Chuck

Image Credit: The TopGear hosts image is from

The Plymouth Prowler

Excuse me? This blog has been in existence for over four years and still no Prowler? Ye gods, how could we have been so remiss in our duties to avoid mention of one of the biggest bombs in recent memory? Or perhaps that's not strictly true. . . .while the Prowler has had its fair share of ridicule and wasn't terribly commercially successful, it did grab a lot of attention at the time and arguably led to something of a renaissance in Plymouth-Prowler-rocky-coast vintage/retro designs     both within Chrysler and outside of it. On top of that, despite whatever shortcomings it may have had, at least it was interesting; a totally new (albeit old) design from an American manufacturer that could not be mistaken for anything else on the road. In addition, it utilized a number of advanced production techniques and materials and was designed to minimize weight for both performance and fuel efficiency. And, truth be told, it really wasn't a bad car.

Practical? No. Wildly impractical? Well. . . .not really. Lustworthy? Definitely.

Continue reading "The Plymouth Prowler" »

Great (But Frustrating) Commercials: Nissan Leaf

I almost never watch commercials anymore. Most of my video is of the streaming variety, either through Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, or YouTube. When I do take advantage of broadcast or cable TV, it's usually captured on my Tivo, where I can fast-forward through commercials. On the rare occasion when I'm watching live TV (usually sports), I'm often with friends and don't pay much attention to commercial blather. In the vanishingly rare cases when I'm watching live TV and aren't talking during the commercials, I'm usually mentally tuned out because most commercials are either obvious or annoying or both. This explains why, in true Car Lust style, I just recently viewed and am just now writing up an advertisement that originally aired three months ago.

Over the weekend, this Nissan Leaf commercial caught me in one of those few moments when both my television and my brain were tuned in, and I thought it was stunningly well-executed. It was frustrating, for reasons I'll get into after the video and the jump, but very well-done.

Continue reading "Great (But Frustrating) Commercials: Nissan Leaf" »

The Future of Automotive Design and Manufacturing?

When I was about 8 or 9, I got a Hot Wheels Picture Maker for Christmas. (Little sister got the Barbie counterpart.) I was reminded of it last month when I read an article in TTAC about Volkswagen's new modular platform architecture.

What does a forty-some year old toy have to do with modern Volkswagens and Audis, and how does it relate (as the title of this post suggests) to the future of automotive design and manufacturing? Watch this vintage Picture Maker commercial, and I'll explain afterward.

Continue reading "The Future of Automotive Design and Manufacturing?" »

September 12 Weekly Open Thread - Little Boys and Their Toys

Today I want to take you back in the way-back machine we keep in the corner of the garage. For some of you it might have to be the way-way-back machine!

As the father to a 2 year old son, I have had the opportunity to renew my love for Matchbox and Hot Wheel cars.  You remember these right?  I bet some of you have a sock drawer with a few gems in reserve.  Little die-cast cars that bring an amount of joy that far exceeds their size! Corvette in yellow from Amazon

My son is a car nut, especially when it comes to these little things.  He can spend hours (literally!) parking and reorganizing his cars.  He even has a garage and race track for his rides.  He even sleeps with a couple of his cars most nights - the most likely bed buddies are Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater.

So each evening when I get home I get to return back to my childhood and surround myself with cars and play with vehicles I could never afford and imagine what life might just be like with car lust and an unlimited budget.

Do you have an all time favorite Matchbox or Hot Wheels car?  Any great memories like me of waking up Christmas morning and finding dozens of new cars awaiting under the tree?

As always, this is also the thread for any other more random talk that seems to be found in every garage I've ever been in.

(Photo taken from

The GMC Motorhome (1973-1978 Model Years)

GMC Motorhome front Say what you will about RVs. Some folks think they are modern, luxurious castles on wheels, while others blame them for all traffic gridlock, fuel shortages, and bad weather. The guys across the big pond at TopGear UK absolutely loathe them, and have presented their disgust on several hilarious occasions.

But let's time-travel again to, say, 1972, just before the first Arab Oil Embargo hit the Unites States. Recreational vehicle sales were booming, gas could be had for about twenty cents a gallon, and it was extremely plentiful. Large vehicles were the rule of the day, and many people thought that driving a small car was an unnecessary safety risk.

GMC Motorhome cutaway Built beginning in the 1972 calendar year, General Motors introduced what may be their most original, brilliant, and beautiful technical achievement of all time... and that's not a simple thing to say. While other motorhomes were just manufactured bodies dropped onto an existing truck frame, the GMC was designed from the ground up to act as a single component. Also unlike other RVs, this vehicle was not just built to be lived in, it was also designed to be driven.

The styling of the GMC Motorhome was and is elegant and futuristic. I think it has withstood the test of time and still looks good today. Maybe the grille area is a bit dated, but the body's organic curved shapes, like a Porsche 928, should never go out of style. Many of the design elements of the GMC Motorhome were used later in the production of the Vixen, but that beauty is another story and probably deserves a post of its own.

Continue reading "The GMC Motorhome (1973-1978 Model Years)" »

1957-58 "Packardbakers"

We'll close out our impromptu series on the 2011 Ohio Region Chapter meet of the Studebaker Drivers Club with a look at some cars I really did not expect to see there in any significant numbers: the 1957-58 "Packardbakers." As you can see, there were quite a few of them.

Left to right: '57 sedan, '58 hardtop, '58 wagon, '57 sedan. So, you might ask, "What in the devil is a 'Packardbaker'?"

Continue reading "1957-58 "Packardbakers"" »

"Ask the man who owns one" -- Packards at the 2011 SDC Ohio Chapter Meet

Technically speaking, the 2011 Ohio Region Chapter meet of the Studebaker Drivers Club that took up most of last week's "Studebaker Week" posts was a Studebaker-Packard meet. Packard and Studebaker merged in 1954, and the company was officially "Studebaker-Packard Corporation" from then until 1962, so this is entirely appropriate. Packards were specifically invited, and judged in their own categories.

"Ask the man who parks one." Packard was a maker of high-end luxury cars, and before World War II it was at least the equal of Cadillac in prestige. Packards were opulent, yet dignified and understated, and the company had a formidable reputation for engineering and build quality reflected in its long-time advertising slogan: “Ask the man who owns one.”

Today, we'll be looking at those Packards built between the mid-1930s and 1956 which put in an appearance at the SDC show.

1939 Coupe Gentlemen, please put on a tie and jacket before entering; a Packard show is a formal occasion and the dress code will be strictly enforced.

Continue reading ""Ask the man who owns one" -- Packards at the 2011 SDC Ohio Chapter Meet" »

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

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