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Great Cars of Song Books (and Radio and TV and Film and. . .): The Ford Prefect.

This post could also be subtitled "Cultural References You Completely Missed For Literally Decades". For those not much into British humour, I am referring to "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams. If you liked Monty Python you would probably like Hitchhiker; if not, well, you could probably skip reading the rest of this post and feel none the worse for wear for it. For the record, I don't look up to or down at anyone who finds either of these tedious and unfunny; being a live-and-let-live kinda guy, I don't consider either to be "an acquired taste" or "more sophisticated" or any of that (heck, I find farts -- even mine -- well, okay, 1024px-1948_Ford_Prefect_E93Aespecially mine -- funny). It's different and that's that. 

At any rate, I read the book back in the early 1980s and when I read about this 'Ford Prefect' character I thought it was kind of funny, but didn't think it meant anything other than that it was a goofy name. For a bit of background, Ford is an alien who hitchhiked to Earth

from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse. Arthur Dent’s failure to suspect this reflects the care with which his friend blended himself into human society - after a fairly shaky start. When he first arrived fifteen years ago, the minimal research he had done had suggested to him that the name ‘Ford Prefect’ would be nicely inconspicuous.

Being a young man from the midwest, I had no idea that 'Ford Prefect' was anything other than an unusual name for someone to pick out of a hat. And so I went for many years, happily reading the books and not bothering to ponder many of the references therein very much. 

Until this whole Internets thing came along. And only recently did I do a search -- for reasons I hereby state that I do not remember -- for "Ford Prefect" and discover, lo and behold, it was a car! Since that's what we do here, I figured it was ripe for a post. 

Except that I know virtually nothing about the Ford Prefect automobile. 

Not like that's ever stopped me before. . . .

Continue reading "Great Cars of Song Books (and Radio and TV and Film and. . .): The Ford Prefect." »

January 25 Open Thread: "It's Snow Time!"

DSC_0599Wow, feet of snow in New England, and several inches in the South. My bud in Gainesville, Florida, said they got flurries!

Thank goodness I found a Jeep about a year ago. These past few days, it has been great for getting around, and it even jumped off another friend's dead battery yesterday.

Have you seen the video of the guy snowboarding through Times Square? The NYPD are even laughing with him.

Now the question comes up... How are you getting around in the slippery stuff? FWD? RWD? AWD? Horse and buggy? Other?

Please let us know!

And if you have anything else even ever so slightly related to cars, this is the place to speak.

Thanks!

--That Car Guy (Chuck)

1973: It Was A Very Good Year... For A While

▲ Please look up at our masthead. That yellow Chevy Vega GT (Or rather, what's left of it) is a 1973 model.

1973_Vega_GT-_Millionth_Vega_Special_EditionOf course, that's just a coincidence to the fact that the 1973 Vega may have been the best looking one of all... possibly because they got it right just before that hideous 1974 design came out.

The '73's front bumper was pushed a couple of inches forward from the '71 and '72 position, with a body-colored panel just behind it (For a 2.5 mph crash standard). And if you can get a good looking Vega, then dog-gone-it, you've done something right!

1973 was the last year that automakers had virtually all control over what their vehicles looked like. That's because the next year, in 1974, 5 MPH bumpers became the law of the land.

Continue reading "1973: It Was A Very Good Year... For A While" »

Caption This

"You're not going to believe what I saw in the store today."

Bike in store

I'm sure some much better quotes come to mind!

--That Car Guy (Chuck)

Image CreditDriver.Tumblr.com.

 

Initial D Fujiwara Tofu Shop Toyota Sprinter Trueno GT-APEX

Httpschoyano.files.wordpress.com xinsrc_20110230181570331449125We’ve talked, albeit very briefly, a couple of years back, on the chassis-code AE86 Toyota Corolla platform, so why is this one any different? What is it about it that inspires replicas to be built all around the world, let alone inspire a college buddy of mine to replicate it as best as he could (Sorry, no pics. He sold it soon after)? Because it’s a hero car for a niche of a niche entertainment category (read: anime)?

Yes, and to be fair, this car is not so different from other well-cared AE86s… not until later anyways.

Continue reading "Initial D Fujiwara Tofu Shop Toyota Sprinter Trueno GT-APEX" »

Initial D: A Love Story

Initial D facebook banner

Have you ever had something (not someone) that has been part of a surprisingly good chunk of your life, for better or worse? Most of my friends would just say ‘videogames’, which is a little vague. I’ll just lump ‘em under Nintendo and/or Pokémon, since those two are forever intertwined. For me, it’s an anime, a car anime to be specific. You may have heard it: Initial D.

Continue reading "Initial D: A Love Story" »

The Mystery Machine

090603_MysteryMachineAuthor’s note: I’m going to focus on the Mystery Machine we all know and love. Even though I’ve watched a lot of Scooby-Doo over the years and because the Scooby universe is quite large, details will be missed. Not even as a kid could I have watched it all. And some of the stuff is just plain unwatchable!

Continue reading "The Mystery Machine" »

1964-1972 Oldsmobile Vista-Cruiser

Jumbo shrimp. 1965_Vista_Cruiser_1

Military intelligence. 

Civil war.

Hot station wagon. 

Oxymorons all? In the past, I have sung the glories of a station wagon precisely once, in that case the 1955-57 Chevy Nomad which I described then as a "beautiful and gloriously dysfunctional car lust ". Then again, I probably would have happily praised the Dodge Magnum had not our own Chris Hafner already done so. 

And that pretty much covered all the bases for my Wagon Lust. Until now. There are two reasons why this one has been added to the corral of Things I Lust After: 1) Some guy in my neighborhood has an old red one he's restoring that I think looks really cool, and 2) This old C&D review of a 455 (!) VIsta-Cruiser:

It goes, stops, steers, and handles like hell. It is so fast you wouldn't believe it. It does a big 94 in the quarter-mile, with an ET of 14.7 seconds, but unlike so many cars that deliver lots of sturm und drang in the quarter, it is perfectly happy to turn a corner or stop at the end.. . .Anybody who ever criticized American cars' handling should try this Oldsmobile. With its voluptuous bodywork, trick Super Chief roof, enormous engine, and great overall size and bulk, it is as purely American as any car could be, but its behavior on the road is so impeccable that it's a machine to make converts of us all. By the same token, anybody who ever defended typical American car handling as "good enough" ought to take our Oldsmobile home tonight.

If that doesn't blow your (fender) skirts up, I don't know what will.

Continue reading "1964-1972 Oldsmobile Vista-Cruiser" »

Buick Ventiports and Style Vs. Function: A Fundamental Dichotomy?

In my last post on the Buick Flamingo, I mentioned the Ventiports that were present on the vehicle and suggested the topic was ripe for a Car Lust treatment. Well, here it is. 

These things have fascinated me for a while, mostly for geeky theoretical reasons. I studied evolutionary theory as part of my graduate studies in archaeology and, oddly enough, automobiles provide very good examples of a lot of the sort of evolutionary principles that can be applied to cultural phenomena; in this case those big ol' 'artifacts' that we drive around in. Cars have a 1949 Buick Brochure-02
number of functional features that have been molded by selective forces -- gasoline won out over electrics over a hundred years ago, for example -- but they also have a lot of stylistic features that illustrate the sort of cultural factors that influence their design. And then there are others that manifest the complicated history of design trends and historical "hiccups" that make for odd combinations of features that aren't really explained by either purely functional or stylistic concerns. 

And this is where Ventiports come in. At first glance, they appear to be. . . .well, what? They look like they might have some use, and in fact a lot of the questions that appear on various web sites contemplate what possible function they have or may have had at one point. Once people realize that they're really just decorative elements, they're often dismissed as meaningless. But their history is a bit more complicated and interesting than simple decoration may suggest and it offers potential for insight into how seemingly trivial design elements can tell us something of our collective automotive history. 

Plus it gives me warrant to utilize all that theorizing I did way back when. I've bracketed the geeky theoretical mumbo-jumbo section so non-nerdy (read: normal) folks can ignore that part, or at least just skim it. So put on the coffee and let us delve into Style and Function: A Fundamental Dichotomy. 

Continue reading "Buick Ventiports and Style Vs. Function: A Fundamental Dichotomy?" »

Remembering George Barris Week: A 1928 Porter

(Originally posted by That Car Guy on April 01, 2010.)

Porter 2Today, building a new car from previously introduced components such as engines, instruments, body, and chassis pieces is nothing unique. Lotus even does it with a Toyota engine. But back just before The Great Depression, when there were practically more automotive manufacturers in America than there were cars on the road, the idea of borrowing bits and pieces from one make and/or model to complete another one was a brilliant, pioneering breakthrough.

Witness the 1928 Porter Touring Car, valued today as a rare treasure, lusted after by antique car collectors. Built by kitbashing real cars on a true 1:1 scale, the Porter engineers began with a Chevrolet frame, engine, and transmission. And why not? All the development work and costs were done, everything fit perfectly together, and it was a strong, reliable base for a grand touring car in the Roaring '20s.

To see the original post in its entirety and leave comments, please click here.

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

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