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About Cookie the Dog's Owner

When not walking his namesake, helping out with the Boy Scouts, or attending to his day job, Cookie the Dog's Owner can be found hurtling down the twisty back roads of Ohio in a Volkswagen GTI Mk. V with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers blasting out of the stereo. He learned to drive on a succession of pathetic mid-70s domestic cars, and his first true automotive love was a 1985 Honda Civic CRX. He is married and has two sons, and is philosophically opposed to automatic transmissions.

Posts by Cookie the Dog's Owner

1989: It Was a Very Good Year!

Nineteen eighty-nine was a dream in a dream
We straddled the thin line between what it means or it seems
To be sure enough we left the world behind

--Grey Eye Glances, "The Lost Coast"

Though nobody expected it to be that way at the start, 1989 was a momentous year, one in which much of what seemed a permanent part of the world was left behind by December 31.

It was certainly that way in Eastern Europe. The "Iron Curtain" looked like it would be there forever on January 1, but that would soon change. In February, the Polish Communist government and representatives of the Solidarity independent trade union entered into the "Round Table Agreement" for the liberalization of the political system; the country held free elections that summer and the new government abolished state socialism and withdrew from the Soviet-dominated "Warsaw Pact" by year's end. In East Germany, a series of mass demonstrations inspired by Solidarity's success led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in November.

"You can bend me you can break me, but you'd better stand clear/When the walls come tumblin' down..." --John MellencampThere were other peaceful transitions to democracy in Chezchoslovakia ("the Velvet Revolution"), Bulgaria, and Hungary. The not-so-peaceful Romanian Revolution in December overthrew the brutal Caucescu regime, and the tyrant met his fate before a firing squad. Even in the Soviet Union, the seemingly-mighty empire which would go out of business completely in anticlimactic fashion just two years later, the government had begun yielding to the tide.

The tides of liberty weren't confined to Eastern Europe. Down in South Africa, P.W. Botha met face to face with Nelson Mandela, one of a series of negotiations which led to the end of the apartheid system of racial segregation. The thuggish Noriega dictatorship in Panama was put out of business Just under half of the class appears in this photo.by U.S. military intervention. Brazil and Chile held their first free elections in decades. In China, the Tiananmen Square protests captured the world's attention before the democracy movement was brutally suppressed.

On a much smaller scale of importance, 1989 was a year of great changes for me personally: I graduated from law school, moved, passed the bar, got married, and embarked on my present career. With my law school class holding its 25-year reunion in August (photo at right), and me being all nostalgic and such because of that, it seemed an appropriate occasion to look back on the automotive world of 1989.

Continue reading "1989: It Was a Very Good Year!" »

4th Annual Home Depot Cruise-In, Medina, Ohio 9/14/14

Last Sunday was a perfect day for a cruise-in, so the Frazer Manhattan and I went to the one sponsored by our local Home Depot.

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There were probably close to fifty vehicles that were in attendance at one point or another over the span of five hours, and it was a pretty eclectic mix.

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Here's some of what we saw.

Continue reading "4th Annual Home Depot Cruise-In, Medina, Ohio 9/14/14" »

September 1 Weekly Open Thread

WP_20140824_13_01_10_ProAs always, this is the place to talk about anything you want to talk about.

For your amusement and edification, may I present a vintage non-digital gasoline pump, encountered (and refuelled from) a week ago in the bustling (not really) metropolis (not quite) of Sulphur, Indiana, where it is still in service. Apparently, it's not the only preserved artifact of a bygone age to be found thereabouts.

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

Carspotters' Challenge #117--Abbotsford (BC) Air Show, 1977

The air show is an annual event held in early August. The 1977 edition featured performances by the Royal Jordanian Falcons and the USAF Thunderbirds.

Abbotsford Air Show 1977 (GTW)

Bonus points for ID-ing the airplane.

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

(Photo obtained from the Station Wagon Forum collection, contributed by member "GTW.")

2014 Frog Follies, Evansville, Indiana

This past weekend, my son Alex moved in to the dormitory to start his academic career at the University of Evansville. Move-in day at the University happened to coincide with the 39th Annual Frog Follies, a gathering of "pre-'49" street rods for the benefit of local charities.

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Something like 4,000 street rods were spending the weekend in Evansville, and you couldn't look in any direction without seeing at least half a dozen. By the time we'd gotten Alex moved in and had dinner, the official Frog Follies gathering was done for the day--but there was a de facto cruise-in going on in every restaurant and hotel parking lot in town.

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Here's some of what we saw that evening before the thunderstorms chased us all inside.

Continue reading "2014 Frog Follies, Evansville, Indiana" »

Carspotters' Challenge #116--Imperial 400

The Imperial 400 Motel in Omaha, Nebraska, sometime in the 1960s.

Omaha 400 (lileks)Are there any Imperials in the parking lot? Seems like there should be at least one, as a matter of principle.

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

(Photo obtained from the motel postcard collection at Lileks.com.)

Carspotters' Challenge #115--That's All Volks!

We close out the week with a dealer postcard from Willis VW in Burlington, New Jersey.

The Muzak system is playing Volks music.--Cookie the Dog's Owner

(Photos obtained from the Station Wagon Forum collection, contributed by member "GTW.")

Carspotters' Challenge #114--Down in the Mall

A mall parking lot in 1982, filled with Car Lust favorites. See anything you'd like to put on your credit card?

Mall 1982 (SWF GTW)

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

(Photo obtained from the Station Wagon Forum collection, contributed by member "GTW.")

The Forgotten Mustang

As of this year, the Ford Mustang, the prototype, archetype, and trope maker of the "pony car," has been in production for half a century. In all the discussion of the Mustang's golden anniversary, and its unquestionably important place in the history of the American automobile, I've seeen very little about the other Mustang, the Mustang that came before the Mustangs that we all know and love.

Ford publicity photo, 1962The "Mustang I" concept car of 1962.

Continue reading "The Forgotten Mustang" »

July 28 Weekly Open Thread--It's a(n Urban) Jungle Out There

"Welcome to the jungle, it gets worse here everyday/Learn to live like an animal in the jungle where we play...."That driverless car revolution we were talking about at last week's picnic might not come as fast as some people have been predicting. MIT Technology Review reports that Google has its hands full getting its new-model autonomous cars to safely navigate the "urban jungle":

Academic experts at the conference say Google is taking on some of the hardest problems in artificial intelligence and robotics, essentially trying to replicate the ability of humans to effortlessly make sense of their environment. That’s because driving safely relies on much more than just knowing to avoid big objects, such as people or other cars, or being able to recognize symbols such as a stop sign. Humans make use of myriad “social cues” while on the road, such as establishing eye contact or making inferences about how a driver will behave based on the car’s make and model . . . . Even if a computer system can recognize something, understanding the context that gives it meaning is much more difficult . . . .

John Leonard, an MIT expert in autonomous driving who attended the conference, says that he and other academics find themselves constantly battling the assumption that all of the technology challenges associated with robotic cars have been solved, with only regulatory and legal issues remaining. “It’s hard to convey to the public how hard this is,” he says. Leonard stands by a comment that earned him some online criticism in an MIT Technology Review story last year, when he predicted that he wouldn’t see a self-driving Manhattan taxi in his lifetime , , , ,

It may take decades to "teach" computers all the things you need to know to drive safely in a complex environment. What I expect we will see more of in the short term is automated driver-assistance systems such as adaptive cruise control, lane-change warning and collision avoidance, and maybe even semi-automatic "platooning" for highway driving.  When we do get fully-robotic road vehicles in general service, I would expect the first to be long-haul robo-trucks that operate on the Interstates only.

This is the place to talk about robot cars, or any other car topic.

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

(The illustration is a Google Cars project promotional image.)

July 21 Weekly Open Thread--Who's Driving?

It's too nice a day to stay inside, so we're going on a picnic. Come tag along and join the conversation.

Looks yummy!Saw an article last week that I wanted to pass along to you: "17 Ways Driverless Cars Could Change America" by Dan McLaughlin in The Federalist. He writes:

Projections of the future are always uncertain, and small variations in what is technologically possible can have large impacts on what happens socially. But we know this much: in a world of driverless cars, a lot will change with the disappearance of drivers, for good and for ill. The possibilities and the risks are only beginning to dawn on us.

 The author's list of possible changes is:

1. Fewer Car Accidents
2. Revolutionizing Car Design
3. Changing The Layout of Roads and Traffic Patterns
4. Changing Who Can Drive
5: Altering the Legal and Insurance Landscape
6. Lowering The Drinking Age
7. Destroying Car Culture
8. Degrading Military Preparedness
9. Extending Telecommuting
10. Eviscerating Drive-Time Radio Ratings
11. Destroying Taxi and Driving Jobs
12. Eroding Privacy
13. Revolutionizing Law Enforcement
14. Reducing Car Theft
15. Fewer Used Cars, More Inequality
16. Increasing Vulnerability to Terrorism and Natural Disasters
17. Flying Cars?

He makes a plausible case for all of them--well, the first sixteen, anyway. I don't know about you, but I'm not really liking #7.

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

Illustration obtained from Desktop Nexus.

Great Commercials--Mel Tormé for Oldsmobile

General Motors got a lot of mileage out of "In My Merry Oldsmobile," the first popular song with an automotive theme, to advertise Oldsmobiles.  For a period of time in the early 1950s, the Olds ad campaign featured "Johnny" and "Lucille," the characters from the song, singing the virtues of the "Rocket" V-8, "Hydramatic" transmission, and "Futuramic" sheetmetal.

Here they are in a 1953 installment, in which Johnny is rather abruptly upstaged by jazz singer Mel Tormé.

Though clearly flummoxed that his gal Lucille has dumped him for the velvet-voiced interloper--What's he got that I ain't got? Besides the great singing voice and the mansion and the multimillion-dollar recording contract, I mean.--but he's enough of a professional to finish the sales pitch.

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

Willys Jeep Wagon

Submitted for your consideration, a charming example of a Willys Jeep Station Wagon, the first all-steel wagon and the mother of all SUVs.

Willys Jeep Wagon 4

This particular Willys was spotted and photographed on the streets of Rocky Ford, Colorado, this past Fourth of July, by my friend Norman Kincaide.

Willys Jeep Wagon 6

Continue reading "Willys Jeep Wagon" »

July 7 Weekly Open Thread

It's the height of summertime, so we've closed the Car Lust Garage early and loaded up the lemonade and sandwiches and gone on a picnic.

A perfect day to open the sunroof....Come join us at the park for potato salad and friendly conversation.

(Photo from the SDC Forum, contributed by user "62champ.")

June 30 Weekly Open Thread

It's that top-down time of year.

Night Convertible (SWF Jim 68cuda)

Here's the place to discuss your favorite summer driving topic.

(Photo from the Station Wagon Forum, contributed by forum member "Jim68Cuda.")

Carspotters' Challenge #113--Rack 'em Up!

For your carspotting pleasure this week, a set of three photos of new cars on railroad cars from the days before fully-enclosed auto-racks.

The St. Louis-San Francisco ran from St. Louis or so to Texas and Arkansas, never getting less than 1,000 miles from San Francisco.

Railroad and location unknown.

Before there were auto rack cars....--Cookie the Dog's Owner

(All three photos come from the Station Wagon Forum, contributed by forum member "Jim68Cuda.")

Carspotters' Challenge #112--Port Chester, NY

Where were you in '82? Whoever took this photo was in Port Chester, New York.

Speed Limit 30See anything you might like to drive home with through the time portal?

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

(Photo obtained from the Station Wagon Forum collection, contributed by member "GTW.")

"Cruise-In" at the Templar Motors Factory

David Buehler, who showed me around the old Templar Motors factory in Lakewood for the post I wrote last winter, was interviewed for last Sunday's episode of Cruise-In, a locally-produced car show. Here's the episode on YouTube; David and the Templars take up the first twelve minutes or so.

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

Carspotters' Challenge #111--Pre-Flight

For this week's installment, we have the fine mid-century modernist architecture of the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, and a generous selection of mid-century wheels.

"Come fly with me, let's fly awayyyyy!"--Cookie the Dog's Owner

(Photo from the Station Wagon Forum, contributed by member "OrthmannJ.")

Carspotters' Challenge #110--Lots and Lots

A scene in Los Angeles, roughly 1960 or so.

"It was midnight in Topanga/I heard the DJ say/There's a full moon rising/Join me in L.A." -- Warren Zevon

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

(Photo obtained from the SDC Forum, contributed by member Bob Andrews.)

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

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