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.
We'll start the second installment of our series on last Saturday's Studebaker Drivers Club meet in Talmadge with a look at the Larks.
The Ohio Chapter of the Studebaker Drivers Club gets together in Talmadge in late August every year for what is touted, quite accurately, as the largest one-day Studebaker meet on the planet.
It was a beautiful day in Northeast Ohio last Saturday, perfect for walking around the Studebaker Drivers Club Ohio Chapter meet in Talmadge.
Today's discussion will deal with an automobile I saw there that is anything but delightful. In fact, one might go so far as to call it disturbing. We're talking about a vehicle that flirts with Ssangyong Rodius and Fiat Multipla levels of wrongness. Before you scroll down or click the "continue reading" link, just remember: once you see something, you can't un-see it.
This 10-minute educational film from 1936 is probably the best explanation you will ever see of the inner workings of a manual transmission.
This is the place to discuss stick shifts, or any other automotive topic that strikes your fancy.
--Cookie the Dog's Owner
In the fall of 1983, the first Dodge Caravans and Plymouth Voyagers rolled off the assembly lines and into the showrooms as 1984 models. The "T-115" minivan, derived from the K-platform FWD sedan, became one of the most influential vehicle designs of all time. The two individuals most responsible for bringing the minivan into the world are Lee Iaccoca, the CEO and public face of Chrysler Corporation at the time, and Hal Sperlich, who served under him as Vice-President of Styling and Product Planning.
But that wasn't the first experience these two gentlemen had with a minivan. Ten years earlier, when Lee Iaccoca was President of Ford and Hal Sperlich was its Director of Product Planning, one of their projects was the Ford Carousel, a prototype minivan that got tantalizingly close to production before being cancelled. So let's leap back in time to the Ford executive suite in 1973, and see what might have happened in an alternate universe where the first true minivan was the Carousel, rolling into Ford showrooms in the fall of 1974 as a 1975 model.
Birth Year Fantasy Garage--Introduction
Birth Year Fantasy Garage--Cookie the Dog's Owner (1961)
Birth Year Fantasy Garage--Tigerstrypes (1989)
Birth Year Fantasy Garage--Anthony Cagle (1962)
Birth Year Fantasy Garage--Chris Hafner (1976)
The year 1961 was one of momentous historical events: President Kennedy's inauguration, the first human in space, the first American spaceflights, the Bay of Pigs invasion, the erection of the Berlin Wall, and my birth.
For purposes of this fantasy garage challenge, the timing of my birth just ain't fair! Two of my little sisters get to have Avantis and Wagonaires in their birth year fantasy garages, but noooooo, not me, I'm too old for those. At the same time, I'm too young for Forward Look Mopars and Loewy coupes.
So where does that leave me? Is it possible to assemble an appropriately Car-Lustful collection entirely out of vehicles from model year 1961? Follow along and we'll see what we can do.
Form follows function. That pithy little slogan, coined by architect Louis Henry Sullivan over a century ago, sums up the hard core modernist approach to architecture and industrial design: the shape of a thing should be determined solely by what it is intended to do, with little or no allowance for ornamentation.
Sullivan's buildings were not nearly as austere as the slogan suggests, but other modernists took the concept all the way to its logical extreme. Adolf Loos, one of Sullivan's contemporaries, declared that all ornamentation--any ornamentation--is "immoral" and "degenerate," and when it came time to design buildings, he practiced what he preached. Had he lived to see it--he died in 1933--Herr Loos would certainly have approved of the squarish Studebaker prototype compact pickup truck which is our topic for today.
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.
There 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 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.
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.
Here's some of what we saw.
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
Bonus points for ID-ing the airplane.
--Cookie the Dog's Owner
(Photo obtained from the Station Wagon Forum collection, contributed by member "GTW.")
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.
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.
Here's some of what we saw that evening before the thunderstorms chased us all inside.
The Imperial 400 Motel in Omaha, Nebraska, sometime in the 1960s.
--Cookie the Dog's Owner
(Photo obtained from the motel postcard collection at Lileks.com.)
We close out the week with a dealer postcard from Willis VW in Burlington, New Jersey.
(Photos obtained from the Station Wagon Forum collection, contributed by member "GTW.")