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Birth Year Fantasy Garage Challenge: Cookie the Dog's Owner (1961)

Sheesh! Everybody's a critic.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.

Okay, so maybe that last one doesn't rate quite so high on the historical importance scale.

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.

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1998-2004 Porsche 911 (996)

Silver 996Porsches, particularly 911s, are typical car-lust (lower case) fodder for the masses. That’s OK, it’s earned it. In CarLust fashion, it’d probably end up in the CarDisgust section for a number of reasons. That’s OK, it’s earned it. But as you read on about the following example of Stuttgart’s icon, you’ll see why it’s CarLust material.

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Great(ish) Commercials: Love Today/Today Is Pretty Great

This is the print advertisement that is supposed to entice Gen-Y/Millennials and me to consider buying a new Honda Civic:

Honda-civic-print-hed-2014
Nope.

*Turns the other way to the Scion dealer*

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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.

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The Knight Industries Two Thousand – K.I.T.T.- Behind the Scanner

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Just like the first post, lists of all of his gadgets, websites and blogs have been made and books have been written about the making of K.I.T.T., the stunts and how they were made, so I’ll try to keep those details to a minimum, too. Which was easier said than done.

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Theme Week: New Cars Week--A Tale of Two Cars

Regular readers may know that I recently purchased a new vehicle, primarily for fieldwork: a 2014 Subaru Forester. Thus far it's* performed its job quite admirably, and I'm really pleased with it overall. Readers may also be aware that for the 24 years preceding that purchase, my daily driver was a 1978 Mustang II. As this is New Car Week here at Car Lust, I thought I'd take the opportunity to offer a little BothCarscomparison as to the driving experience of the two. I do this because probably not that many of you have been regular drivers of anything made in the 1980s, let alone the 1970s, and probably few have done so recently (and many of you young'uns, not at all). 

To start off with, at the right there are two photographs of the driver's side dashboard of each; I'm assuming you can tell which is which. When first stepping behind the wheel of the Forester I was immediately struck by the wide array of controls and bits of information display devices that were present compared with my Mustang. I haven't actually counted them up yet, but thought that might be part of the fun of this post: how many functions can you count on each, just from the photographs? 

Hidden behind the wheel on the Mustang's left are the climate controls (one heat slider control and one controlling the various fans, heat/vent, etc.) and on the right is a knob for the side mirror, the "cigarette lighter", and a modern radio/CD player with a USB input. The left turn signal stalk also has a cruise control attachment on it.

On the Forester I don't believe anything is hidden, although there are probably a dozen or so additional indicator lights on the dashboard that can light up. 

So have at it! You'll undoubtedly fall far short on the Forester since the screen has dozens and dozens of entries, most of which I haven't even seen yet. I'm betting the ratio probably at least 10:1. 

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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.)

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.

June 2 Weekly Open Thread--Driverless Cars Update

Join us out here on the front porch for some lemonade and car talk. You can steer the conversation in any direction you would like.

This past week, there seemed to be a sudden burst of news activity concerning self-driving cars. Google unveiled its newest self-driving car project, a purpose-built electric "city car" with a 25 MPH top speed and a 100-mile range.

Prior versions of the Google Car were built for semiautomatic freeway cruising and required the driver to stay engaged and function as a co-pilot. According to MIT Technology Review,

That approach had to be scrapped after tests showed that human drivers weren’t trustworthy enough to be co-pilots to Google’s software. When people began riding in one of the vehicles, they paid close attention to what the car was doing and to activity on the road around them, which meant the hand-off between person and machine was smooth. But that interest faded to indifference over weeks and months as people became too trusting of the car’s abilities. . . . 

That convinced Google it had to give up on switching between human and machine control, says Fairfield. That also ruled out building on top of conventional car designs, because they assume a human is on hand and ready to take over in the event of an emergency.

Google is building a fleet of 100 of the new electrics for testing this summer. Under current law, those that venture out on the public roads will have to be equipped with steering wheels and other controls.

Meanwhile, over in Europe, the development of driverless Bimmers and Benzes is bumping up against a rather restrictive legal environment.

Back on our side of the pond, a company called Peloton Technology is working on a system for large trucks that combines active cruise control with short-range wireless communication to allow two big trucks to travel in a "platoon" with only thirty feet of space between them. 

This cuts down drag on both trucks--the same aerodynamic boost that geese get from flying in formation, and NASCAR drivers get from "drafting" on an opponent's back bumper--and saves fuel, as much as 10% for the good buddy in the "back door" position.

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid: A Gas/Electric Game Changer

It seems there’s a lot of hybrids on the market that go so far out of their way to "make up for" being a hybrid—mileage-killing power, weight-adding features and girth, endlessly distracting luxury bells and whistles—that by the time you pick yourself up off the floor after taking a look at the financially crippling price tag, you might as well have just gotten a normal car. Because really, what’s the point of a hybrid if it’s got all the same stuff that a gas-guzzler has, costs so much more that you’ll probably die before you earn the difference back in fuel savings, and yet still only gets 35 mpg? Here's a spoiler: the new Honda Accord Hybrid is not that car.
DSC_0512

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

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