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August 4th Weekly Open Thread-- "Theme Week: New Cars Week"

New Car SmellThey say nothing smells as good as a new car. And that is kind of hard to argue with. Just ask these two olfactory experts.

This is the time of year when the dealers are "giving away" the 2014 models to "make room" for the 2015s. From "$1,000's Off!" to "Zero Down, Zero % !!!," the dealers will be working overtime to "Get you into this beauty!" with whatever it takes.

So this week, we're going to feature some new cars. Or maybe I should say new vehicles. At least one of these posts isn't about a car.

And as always, this is the place to discuss anything even remotely automotively related. "Anything!"

--That Car Guy (Chuck)

Image Credit: The picture here was found at CHZBGR.com.

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" »

2014 Mustangs Northwest Car Show

Last weekend I put my Mustang II in the Mustangs Northwest 2014 Mustang Roundup and All Ford Picnic. This is the first one I've been to in a couple of years so, following tradition, I've collected a few photographs of some of the more interesting cars I saw that day. Yeah, there is the usual assortment of perfectly restored classic Mustangs, but I've tried to highlight the unusual cars that showed up, both Mustangs and assorted other Fords.  AllCars

Interestingly, the last year I was at the show -- 2011 -- it was rainy and again this year it was fairly gray and drizzly as well. This is odd for Seattle, which is usually very dry in July. But a good time was had by (almost) all. I'm just going to throw out a few photos for your enjoyment with what I know about the cars. Often the owners weren't present for me to quiz on their cars, so I've pieced together what I can from what was there and what other information I could find out on the Interwebs. 

On with the (car) show!

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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.)

RIP James Garner

The world lost a fine gentleman and actor this past week. We here at Car Lust express our thanks to Mr. Garner for gracing us with his craft all these years and our regrets at his passing. To help celebrate his life in our own somewhat peculiar way, we're linking to an old post of mine about the car(s) of The Rockford Files. Garner had some input into the choice of automobile for the show and did most if not all of the stunt driving himself; he was that good. And he earned kudos from the real drivers on the set of Grand Prix for learning the craft of Formula 1 racing to a high level. And if that weren't enough, by all accounts Garner was just a damned decent fellow. 

Rest in peace, Mr. Garner. And thank you.

1970-1981 Pontiac Firebird Esprit

by Anthony Cagle on February 08, 2011

You may not ever have heard of this car, but many of you over a certain age probably already know of it. The Firebird, arguably, rarely gets quite the attention that the Chevrolet division's sister car, the EspritCamaro, does but it has a nice lineage and it produced quite a few memorable cars--even though a lot of them appear here at Car Lust rather than in the big muscle car magazines and web sites.

I always preferred the Firebird to the Camaro myself, for whatever reason, and the second generation has always been my favorite, especially the later '70s. Again, for whatever reason, the first generation'sstyling never quite did it for me; it just looks to me like something that was thrown together quickly to get something into the pony car market (this is all apart from the performance which was generally stellar). The second generation's styling just seems to have been well thought out with clean lines, good proportions all around, and manages to seem elegant, powerful, and sporty all at the same time. They look good from any angle. Although I adore my Mustang II the Firebirds from that time remain my absolute favorite car.

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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.

1963 Volkswagen Dunebuggy

Sometimes life gets in the way of having fun.  This is true when it comes to having fun with our cars.  Cars should be more than just tools in our lives.  Many (all?) of us dream of having a great car to have fun in, but for some of us it takes a while to reach the place where that can happen.  For others that "while" is 36 years.

2012-07-15 12.47.54

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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

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

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