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August 2013

Carspotters' Challenge #74--1959 Fairgrounds Auto Show, Walla Walla, Washington

The new '60s are here!

Greetings from Walla Walla,...."The City So Nice, They Named It Twice"Famed for sweet onions and wineries, home to the oldest bank in the state,.... ...but, contrary to what they said in classic Warner Brothers cartoons, it's NOT the headquarters of the "Wishywashy Washing Machine Company."See anything interesting?

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

(Photos obtained from the Station Wagon Forum's collection of vintage scenes, to which they were contributed by member "OrthmannJ.")

2013 Studebaker Drivers Club Ohio Chapter Meet, Tallmadge, Ohio

Late August means it's time once again for the SDC's Ohio Chapter meet, the largest one-day Studebaker show in the world.

Avanti Row -- two Youngstown-built "Avanti Carlos" and a '64 in stunning pastel turquoise.

An exaltation of Larks.Here's a little of what I saw at this year's show last Saturday:

Continue reading "2013 Studebaker Drivers Club Ohio Chapter Meet, Tallmadge, Ohio" »

International Car Forest of The Last Church, Goldfield, Nevada

Buckaroo, I don't know what to say. Lectroids? Planet 10? Nuclear extortion? A girl named "John"?

- President Widmark, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

Goldfield, Nevada is a tiny, seemingly insignificant accumulation of abandoned buildings between Tonopah and Beatty on US 95, roughly halfway between Reno and Las Vegas. It wasn't always so - in 1906, Goldfield, with over 20,000 residents, was the largest city in Nevada, all focused on extracting high grade gold-bearing ore from Columbia Mountain and the surrounding Goldfield Hills or in supporting the miners in their work. It was arguably the last true mining boom town in Nevada history; when Goldfield went bust, the absurdely optimistic dream of building a mining-based metropolis that would stand the test of time - a dream that littered Nevada with well-built ghost or semi-ghost towns like Virginia City, Austin, Ione, Belmont, Rhyolite, Candelaria and the like - died with it. After Goldfield, later mining towns like Klondike and Divide dispensed with fancy, well built brick hotels, bank buildings and railroad depots and instead opted for wood frame construction or tents to better protect scarce capital when the ore inevitably ran out.

IMAG0214Because of Goldfield's brief moment of prosperity, however, it was able to acquire a few trappings that prevented it from being completely abandoned. First, as one of the few inhabited towns in that part of Nevada, it became a critical way station for Nevada State Route 3 and Nevada State Route 5 in the 1920s (later US 95 in the '40s), providing food, water, fuel and repair services for stranded travelers in the days before Interstate highways, pressurized engine cooling systems, or 200+ mile fuel tanks. Second, and much more importantly, it became a county seat for newly formed Esmeralda County in 1907, a position it has never relinquished; consequently, as long as the county offices are still present, Goldfield will always have some residents living there to staff them. In fact, due to the combination of these two factors - namely, the location of the Esmeralda County Sheriff Department's headquarters in downtown Goldfield and Goldfield's location on US 95, along with the attendant drop in speed limit through town - Goldfield is known to seasoned travelers in Nevada as a moderately notorious speed trap.

Off the main highway through town, however, is an odd and curious attraction, one that is barely noticeable out of the corner of one's eye while driving through the southern edge of Goldfield's modest township boundaries. Rising out of the desert, approximately a mile or so from the highway, hidden by a few small rolling hills and some buildings, are various vehicles standing, lengthwise, rising out of the ground like corn.

Seriously:

IMG_20130818_115353_833_1If you're attentive enough to notice this odd sight, you've just discovered the International Car Forest of The Last Church, an eccentric art project adopted by Chad Sorg, which bills itself as the "World's Largest National Junk Car Forest":

IMG_20130818_112747_751_1

Continue reading "International Car Forest of The Last Church, Goldfield, Nevada" »

Arkansas Valley Fair Car Show, Rocky Ford, Colorado

Contributed by Norman Kincaide.

The dust has settled from Saturday night’s demolition derby at the Arkansas Valley Fair. The aroma of teriyaki chicken, pulled pork sandwiches, turkey drum sticks, and cotton candy has all but dissipated with the sunrise.

An eclectic mix: everything from a Chevy SSR to a Studebaker Lark taxicabSunday morning at the Arkansas Valley Fair did entertain another automobile event.

Continue reading "Arkansas Valley Fair Car Show, Rocky Ford, Colorado" »

August 26 Weekly Open Thread--Late Summer Delights

Welcome to the Car Lust Cruise-In, Barbecue, and General-Purpose Social Event. Grab a hot dog from the concessions truck, sit down here at the picnic table, and join the conversation.

We've had fine weather this August--mostly sunny, and comfortably warm, with few of those humid "dog days" we usually get this time of year. In other words, it's been perfect car show weather. I made my annual pilgrimage to the Studebaker-Packard meet in Tallmadge this past Saturday, and I'll be sharing my photos with you later in the week.

Here's one to give you a taste:

Look!  It's Mrs. Kennedy!I've seen this particular Lark convertible before, but I hadn't gotten a really good picture of it. This time around, I got lucky and happened to be standing right there when the owner backed it in to one of the parking spaces. With that blouse and scarf, she looked like she'd driven here through a time portal from 1961.

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

Carspotters' Challenge #73--Bagpipes and Cacti

Phoenix, Arizona, in the 1970s:

"Arizona, take off your rainbow shades ...."See anything interesting?

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

(Photo obtained from the Station Wagon Forum's collection of vintage street scenes, contributed by member "Fat Tedy.")

Mars Rovers

What would you say is the greatest off-road vehicle ever built? The humble yet mighty Willys MB? The Cherokee? The Land Rover? The FJ Cruiser? Monster trucks? Baja 1000 rallyers? Dirt bikes? The Thiokol Snowcat?

While all of the above are worthy contenders, I submit for your consideration a quartet of candidates in three model series which were built for the most extreme off-roading ever attempted by the human race. They are also the most advanced driverless vehicles ever built, and have been successful beyond their creators' wildest dreams.

Clockwise from lower right: Sojourner, Spirit/Opportunity, two guys in lab coats, Curiosity.Today, we'll do a little off-world off-roading, as we take a Car Lust look at the NASA Mars Rovers.

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The Driverless Roundtable

In just the past few years, thanks to Moore's Law and the march of technology in general, self-driving vehicles have gone from pure fantasy...

All they need is Van Morrison on the Hiway Hi-Fi: "I said oh, oh, domino/Roll me over romeo/There you go, say it again/I said oh, oh, oh, domino...."...to working prototypes.

They're not yet quite ready for prime time, but it's probable that consumer-grade versions will be on sale for use on the streets within a decade. Our children and grandchildren will grow up surrounded by cars which drive themselves, and will think of them as utterly mundane and normal.

For this edition of the Car Lust Roundtable, we the contributors will send our opinions on the impending driverless car revolution hurtling straight at you down the information superhighway--with no one at the controls. Hang on!

Continue reading "The Driverless Roundtable" »

Engineering a Driverless Vehicle

Contributed by P.J. Morley

Modern cars are robust machines, designed to protect their occupants in the event of a crash, but no amount of engineering can make a car completely safe if the driver isn't paying attention....or can it?

Self-driving cars are something we've been promised for years and they just might be on the roads sooner than later.  This summer, at the University of Arizona, I was one of the ten undergraduate students chosen from across the country to participate in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department's CATVehicle research program.

The CATVehicle REU Team
Left to right: Matt Bunting, Sean Whitsitt, Eric Westman, Dylan Watson, Tarif Haque, Dr. Haris Volos, Miguel De Jesus, Ethan Rabb, P.J. Morley, Alex Warren, Nicole Chan, Joanna De Los Santos, Duc Lam, Dr. Jonathan Sprinkle, Nancy Emptagen

Continue reading "Engineering a Driverless Vehicle" »

August 19 Weekly Open Thread: Autonomous Vehicles Week Kicks Off

We start out this week with what may be one of the biggest bang-for-the-buck projects in NASA history: The Spirit and Opportunity rovers. In fact, this could realistically be posted as a Very Good Year story as they were launched 10 years ago. . .and how many of us remember what we were doing in 2003? 800px-Spirit_Rover_Cleaned

What I want to just briefly highlight here is these two indefatigable rovers, whose original mission duration was set at a mere 90 Martian days and here they are, still (mostly) in operation almost ten years after they landed on Mars. Spirit was launched on June 10, 2003 and Opportunity followed on July 7. After journeys of six months they both landed in January of 2004. They were both fairly ungainly-looking but proved to be exceptionally rugged in operation and after their original mission periods, both were extended indefinitely, or until they were no longer operable.

Sadly, Spirit's time came on March 10, 2010 (day 2210 of the mission) when contact was lost. It had been having trouble with one wheel and had become stuck in soft sand, whereby it was decided it was to act as a stationary observation platform until it stopped transmitting. It was officially declared "dead" in May of 2011 when attempts to regain contact ceased. At that time it had logged 25 times its alloted time on Mars and covered over 7 kilometers (4.8 miles) of ground, far exceeding its planned range of 600 meters.

Opportunity, however, soldiered on and, at the time of this writing, is still rolling around Mars conducting scientific observations.

I have to admit that I always had a soft spot for Spirit, probably because it kind of got the short end of the stick, location-wise, and most of the important discoveries were made initially by Opportunity. And it always seemed to be having problems of some sort; I like the whole underdog theme she had going (both rovers were always considered to be females). I'll also readily admit that part of that has to do with some wag's initiation of a LiveJournal for Spirit which is utterly charming in its light humor. At any rate, it's hard not to feel a bit of sadness at her passing.

These weren't the first Mars probes, nor even the first Mars rovers -- that honor goes to the Pathfinder mission with its little rover Sojourner -- but their design and construction have bequeathed to us a wealth of data on Mars and given us a great example of what talented engineers can do when they put their minds to it.

The rest of this week will be devoted to other autonomous vehicles, both terrestrial and extraterrestrial. They may not be ready for the American driveway as yet, but the systems they are experimenting with may eventually find their ways into yer average grocery-getter in the not too distant future.

--Anthony Cagle

The image here is a self-portrait of Spirit taken on Martian day 586, from Wikipedia.

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

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