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February 2012

In Search Of "The Best City Car"

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123Contests are fun, especially if you win! So let's play "contest" here. This "race" is for the Best City Car, a vehicle that does everything as well as possible in a specified environment for the lowest cost.

But wait, in what city? For this venue, let's go to San Francisco, California, as the test bed; quite the social and cultural change from here in rural, conservative Middle Tennessee. It's such a cool place that after a couple of trips out there, you almost want to buy some Tony Bennett records.

Public transportation in the Bay Area is outstanding, ranging from cable cars and electric streetcars to BART and other MUNI systems, as well as an all-hybrid taxi fleet. All in all, this jewel of a metropolis is doing a brilliant balancing act, being both a car-friendly and an eco-conscious city.

It's also the second-most congested city in America and our 13th largest, so living here with a vehicle presents many special challenges. Street cleaning requires frequent vehicle shuffling. Parking spaces are at a premium; you're lucky if your residence offers any parking space at all.

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Weekly Open Thread: Driving and Nothingness

To bring a bit of highbrow to the midbrow Car Lust culture, we present to you Jean-Paul Sartre who reportedly penned the following ode to his Dodge Dartre:SartreDartre

"In my journey to the end of night, I must rely not only on dialectical paths of reason. I must have a good solid automobile, one that eschews the futile trappings of worldly ennui and asks only for basic maintenance. My Dodge Dart offers me this elemental solace, and as interior parts fall off I am struck by the realization of their pointlessness. I might not know if the window is up or down. It is of no consequence."

Now, I've seen this quoted in a couple of places, but have no idea whatsoever if it's a real quote since I've never seen it sourced, just generally attributed to its having been written in 1961 (my guess is it's a spoof). So, take it as you will.

For an entertaining latter-day review of the 1963 Dart, see the Car Talk guys ("Dodge has given some thought to maintenance and repairs--particularly the under-dash repairs, which can be so very difficult in other cars. In the Dart, all the wires are hanging down, in clear view of both driver and passenger.")

As always, this is the place to discuss anything car or car-related.

Credit: Base photo of a 1961 Dart (suitably modified) is from RemarkableCars.Com.

Carspotters' Challenge #2 -- The Dawn of Disco in Dedham

This is a screencap of a scene from the 1973 crime drama The Friends of Eddie Coyle, filmed on location in Dedham, Massachusetts. It's a Car Lust cornucopia from the dawn of the disco era!

FrendsOfEddieCoyleScreenshotHow many can you identify?

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

(Screencap obtained from Lileks.com.)

The One That Got Away: Schwinn Sting-Ray

We here at Car Lust have batted around the idea every now and then of doing an occasional series called "The One That Got Away": Vehicles that we either had and let slip away or ones that we had a chance to buy but neglected to take the plunge on. . . .until it was too late. We've never quite gotten around to formally deciding to, well, take the plunge with the idea (irony duly noted), but I figured I might as well start it off anyway, jumping on the Way-Back Machine and starting with the very first one that got away KidonStingRay for me.

This is one of my biggest regrets in life (which probably says something about me, I suppose): that of all the bikes I had as a kid, I always wanted a Sting-Ray but never got one. I suppose this is sort of off the beaten path as far as Car Lust is concerned, but I imagine most of us got our first taste of the freedom that your own set of wheels provides from our bikes. I further imagine that this might be a generational thing: Back when I was a kid, nearly everyone had a bike. We rode them everywhere: to school and back (unsupervised!), to the swimming pool in the summer (unsupervised!), to our friends' houses (unsupervised!), to the Dairy Queen (unsupervised!), and pretty much all over town all day nearly every day in the summer (unsupervised!). There was no such thing as a "play date" and the only time we didn't walk or get driven to school or wherever was when the weather was too cold or raining or snowing or some such. Otherwise, our bikes were our transportation, our favorite toy, our imaginary motorcycle, or anything else the young mind can come up with.

And when I was a kid in Wisconsin in the late '60s and early '70s, the Sting-Ray was the bike to have. Sadly, I never had one and made do with a string of largely forgettable two wheelers that to this day probably foreshadowed my eventual string of largely forgettable cars.

Continue reading "The One That Got Away: Schwinn Sting-Ray" »

Weekly Open Thread - oils lotions and potions oh my!

Every car person worth their weight in carnuba wax has some products you swear by. Part of car lust is dealing with various issues - be it dirty fuel systems, blue puff at start up, sketchy paint, dry leather and so on. What do you use? What do you swear by? I'll list a few of my favorites after the break below.

As always, this Monday thread is the collection bin for all things auto related that might not fit elsewhere. Pull up a chair, make yourself comfortable, there's beverages in the fridge.

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Carspotters' Challenge #1 -- Pittsburgh, circa 1965

The photographer was most interested in the PCC trolley, but the cars on the street with it are an interesting selection. How many can you identify?

PCC--Cookie the Dog's Owner

1983 Honda XR500R

As I’ve mentioned previously, in my family Car Lust frequently manifested itself in the two wheel form (so yes, technically not a car).  One of those lust of mine still lives in my father’s garage.  This bike is as much beast as it is motorcycle -  raw off-road delight. Honda832xr500r


I don’t even remember when the bike found its way into our garage or the circumstances thereby.  But it was in the mid '80’s that it showed up in all its glowing Flash Red glory.  The XR500R is a purpose built bike made solely for off-road riding.  It comes with no turn signals and no electric start.  Yes, it fires on the power of your right leg. 

This is a cycle for the brave or crazy, certainly not a bike you want to learn the ropes on.  First, it is quite tall making it somewhat difficult for short people to even get their leg over the back to get astride the bike – the seat height is 37.4 inches, so if you have a short inseam, good luck.  The total travel in the suspension is 11 inches of abuse absorbing range.  You’d think that would mean it absorbs a lot of the bumps and ruts as you ride (and it does) but you certainly still feel them through the bike into your body.  And while you don’t think about it if you’ve only ridden on a road bike, the hits and bumps do begin to add up and punish your body if you spend long periods off-road.  Add to that the 267lbs dry weight and it is a bike that will make you work if you are going to push it hard.

Where the beast really roars (and can get quite scary) is when you reach for a handful on that right side.  A quick blip of the throttle can quickly bring a grin from ear to ear or inspire sheer terror.  Truth be told, 498cc is a bit excessive for nearly all recreational off-road adventures.  Sure, it can go fast, but on most trail rides that is the opposite of the objective.  And without precise throttle control, that power is often wasted throwing rocks at the heads of the riders behind you.

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End of the (Econo)Line: The Ford E-Series van

When word came down a couple of months ago that Ford was discontinuing its venerable Econoline van -- known since 2001 as simply the E-Series -- the news was greeted with consternation and dismay by large swaths of the American public. Newspapers carried the story on Page 1 and the airwaves were filled with Ford_E-Series_wagonvitriol at Ford's unfortunate decision and high-minded praise for a vehicle that has been a crucial part of the American road for over 50 years -- not to mention the best-selling full-sized van since 1982. Indeed, the reaction was so strong that we here at Car Lust simply had to finally take notice and deliver a post to you, the CarLusting public, commenting on the unfortunate demise of this mainstay of automotive Americana.

Okay, I made most of that up. There wasn't much reaction at all and, for what it's worth, I found all of 3 news stories regarding the decision, none more than a few paragraphs long. True, full-sized vans don't generally get that much attention anymore, certainly not since the minivan made its appearance and caused us all to bemoan (or celebrate) the day when we became minivan-driving-soccer-moms/dads, or when the SUV started grabbing a significant market share leading to all sorts of smackdown by partisans on either side.

It doesn't get many props, the humble cargo van, but chances are you've either used one or depended on one at some point, probably recently, and often never even noticed it. They're a staple of commercial fleets for hauling cargo, for use as mobile workshops by all manner of craftsmen, and have been a staple of various organizations for hauling people around. But now, as it is about to fade into memory let's take a few minutes to, well, notice it for once.

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Feb. 13 Weekly Open Thread

Here at the Car Lust Supper Club Lounge & Coffee Shoppe out on old US 39 west of Hafner Road, we serve steaks, chicken, coffee, cocktails, and conversation. (We also stock washer fluid and 10W-30 in the gift shop.) It's the place to talk about whatever's on your mind.

If you're looking for a discussion-starter, there's this collection of old iron:

Greetings from Bart's Charcoal Broiler & Saddle Room Lounge in Longview, Washington, gateway to the Cascades.
How many can you identify?

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

(Illustration from the "Restaurants" postcard collection at Lileks.com.)

Our Cars Week: (Not) My 1975 AMC Hornet

I've been meaning to do a post on my old Hornet for a while now, but never managed to figure out a good way to, well, properly Lust after it without sounding silly. As much as I adore a lot of '70s cars (and loathe others), I could never quite work up a decent angle to express my affection for this particular car and its brethren. I mean, with certain quite notable exceptions it was, in my view, a perfectly unexceptional automobile by nearly any standard: like most American cars of that decade it wasn't MyHornetterribly reliable, wasn't very comfortable, had entirely forgettable performance characteristics, it's styling was at best meh, and despite its quite exceptional heritage (tenuous though the automotive genetics may be) even I don't find them all that memorable.

Oh, but I adored my Hornet. Well, strike that: despite the fact that I consider it as "mine" it never really was; it was the family car. But I managed to adopt it for a couple of years and it carried me on any number of high school and college-age adventures (though sadly very few of the amorous variety) and our parting, as the photo shows, left me quite despondent.

Continue reading "Our Cars Week: (Not) My 1975 AMC Hornet" »

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

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