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Hooniverse Asks- Do You Think Roundabouts are Better Than 4-way Intersections?

Robert Emslie October 17, 2014 Hooniverse Asks


A lot of people like to tout American exceptionalism, or  the idea that the U.S. is qualitatively different than every other country on the planet. I don’t know about that, but I can tell you one thing that separates us from a lot of other industrialized nations is our dogged tradition for the 4-way intersection. A lot of other countries have for years relied on the yield and merge roundabout for maintaining traffic flow at the confluence of two or more roads, but we like to bring everybody to a halt in such instances, because Freedom.

That’s not to say that we don’t have roundabouts here in the U.S.. In fact, I typically drive through a pair of them on my morning commute every weekday. Those however, have not been put in place to ease traffic flow. Quite the contrary, they have been dropped into the intersections as a means to vex drivers – literally called traffic calming measures. The intersection islands were the result of a class-action lawsuit brought about by homeowners against their city after the municipality attempted to direct traffic from the freeway through a heavily residential neighborhood to a high-end retail strip that provided a sizable chunk of tax revenue.

Now the asphalt rings sit in the middle of the still 4-way stop sign controlled intersections making turns awkward and forcing cars to wait in line to make a right turn. Yep, progress! Elsewhere, as I understand it, the roundabouts are done right, allowing vehicles to traverse the intersection of two roads with little more than a slight turn of the wheel and appreciative nod to other merging members of traffic. Has that been your experience? Or, have you found other countries’ roundabouts as inscrutable as I have the lame faux editions here? What is your preference, roundabouts or 4-way intersections?

Image: Bicycle Dutch

Hooniverse Asks- What Cars are Cooler as Strippers Than When Loaded?

Robert Emslie October 16, 2014 Hooniverse Asks

Stripper Pole

They say that the simple pleasures in life are the most rewarding. I’ve also heard say that money can’t buy happiness. I tend to think that those are both rationalizations made by poor folks, but then considering that I myself am among those have-nots, who am I to argue?

When it comes to cars, much like Subway sandwiches, you can have them plan or fancy. Usually it’s the latter that both cost more and offer the more engaging driving experience. Bells and whistles on a car can turn a mundane ride into one that’s exciting. Add a bigger motor, better brakes, or just something as simple as power windows and lights that go on to greet you, and your car becomes a far better place to occupy on that long ride home.

Except that is, when they don’t. Some cars benefit from their simplicity, and adding-on features and favors only detracts from the pure essence of what is at heart an excellent ride. Stripper cars are also often a lot more fun than loaded models because there’s simply less to go wrong, and more importantly, less to distract from what you really want to experience. Have you ever come upon a car that’s better when unburdened with options? If so, what might that have been?

Image: pimpstarlife

Hooniverse Asks- What is the Greatest Station Wagon Ever to Come From Japan?

Robert Emslie October 15, 2014 Hooniverse Asks


The station wagon may have been invented in the U.S. – no really, it may have been, I don’t really know – but that’s not to say that other contries haven’t embraced the style over the years. In fact today, in the (likely) birthplace of the station wagon, most of those presently for sale here come from… Germany.

Yup, most U.S. car makers have long ago abandoned the longroof like it was a carrier of Ebola and not just the kid’s soccer team. We’re not here today to lament the dearth of American wagons, or to praise the still seemingly plentiful number of German family haulers, but to try and parse out the wagon that is perhaps the greatest contribution to the form, and  that hails from the Land of the Rising Sun.

Japan has a rich automotive history, and over its course the island nation has exported just about every conceivable style of car known to man. They’ve also kept home quite a few that are totally  inconceivable, but that’s another show. What I want to know today is what officially exported wagon do you think is Japan’s crowning (no pun intended) achievement in the art of the longroof. What do you think is the greatest station wagon to ever come out of Japan?

Image: motorstown

Hooniverse Asks- What Car-Related Names Must Have Sounded Good at the Time, But are now Unfortunate?

Robert Emslie October 14, 2014 Hooniverse Asks


Right about now Toyota execs are wishing that the bad motor scooters in the Middle East had chosen an acronym for their movement that spelled out MAZDA, or maybe ALTIMA. No such luck for Japan’s biggest car maker, however. They chose to name their JDM minivan Isis long before the beardos did, but the car maker still has to live with the consequences. I also hear that Ebola has been replaced by Mary as number one baby name choice for 2015. Go figure.

Naming cars, like any consumer product, can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, you might end up with a product that becomes forever inexorably linked to some horrific global news story, while on the other hand… , well there’s not really an upside to all this. Maybe that’s why so many car makers have moved to inscrutable alpha-numeric naming conventions. After all, you’re unlikely to find a terrorist organization called the 750 iL.

Today’s current kerfuffle isn’t the first time that a car maker has chosen a name, only to later find it come back and bite them in the corporate ass. What I want today are examples of those instances. What car-related names can you think of that while once quite innocent, later proved to be woefully unfortunate?

Image: World of Toyota Isis

Hooniverse Asks- Is Rolls Royce Still a Status Symbol, or are They Just Bought by Weirdos?

Robert Emslie October 13, 2014 Hooniverse Asks


Last Friday we discussed whether or not Ferrari had lost its mystique, its mojo as it were, owing to competitors moving onto its turf. The consensus was that the Italian Stallion was still fully worth its prance, but would lose all respect if they ever built a sport utility. Today, I want your opinion on another venerable brand- one that traditionally takes luxury to extreme limits in the same way that Ferrari does performance.

Rolls Royce is perhaps England’s proudest achievement. Exclusive, exacting, and constructed from nothing but the finest of materials, the products of the company founded by Charles Rolls and Henry Royce set the standard for conspicuous consumption. Favored by financiers and rock stars – John Lennon had a psychedelic-painted Phantom Limousine – Rolls Royce was once the pinnacle of luxury cars. But then, the competition caught up with Crewe. And then, in feature and in some ways panache its rivals surpassed the British brand.

These days, you can buy a BMW 7-Series (upon which the current RR cars are remotely based) with way more kit and at a vastly lower price. The Mercedes S-Class is another balls-out luxo ride that offers things like infrared cameras for night driving that still aren’t available on the Roller, and again at a sizable savings. While not hand-built, the big Bimmers and especially the Benz models, are constructed of the kinds of materials and with a level of build quality that once was the realm of Rolls. The question then is, why would you buy a Rolls today? Who does, and do they gain the same level of respect as did buyers, say in the 1950s? Are Rolls Royces today only bought by weirdos?

Source: Autoguide

GM of the Early 21st Century, and a look back at their “Innovative Products”… Were they innovative or innocuous?

Pontiac Aztek Rally picture # 03 of 05, Rear Angle, MY 2004, 1024x768 - Google Chrome 10112014 91942 PM.bmp

By now, you are all well aware of the column written by Bob Lutz for Road & Track (online) that appeared on Jalopnik’s Kinja site recently. If not, hit the links I’ve provided and read all about the Aztek, the much maligned model that was actually a great idea executed badly. There was a lot of that going around at GM, and within the article, Mr. Luts eluded that (then GM Chairman) Rick Wagoner decreed that from some point on there was going to be 40% of the new product-line was going to be “innovative”, whatever that really meant. So, besides the Aztek, I am going to speculate what products could have fit within that 40% of innovation, before the bottom fell out of the car business in 2009. This would be new vehicles from the 2002 model year, and the Aztek will take front and center… So what else may qualify? Make the break, and speculate along with me…

… Continue Reading

Hooniverse Asks- Has the Competition Eroded Ferrari’s Cachet?

Robert Emslie October 10, 2014 Hooniverse Asks


When it comes to sports cars that say “I’ve Made It” or perhaps, “I Deal Drugs” no other brand has said it as effectively as Ferrari. Oh sure, the Lamborghini Countach may have won the kids’ bed room wall poster battle, but for the discriminating buyer of the real deal, it was the Prancing Horse or GTFO.

Ferrari’s heyday seems to have been the era spanning the sixties through the nineties, when even some of the marque’s less well conceived models still engendered reverence among both the faithful and those who worshiped even the lesser lights from afar. I mean, Don Johnson’s character was given a cheese grater Testarossa in Miami Vice because he was supposed to be the ’80s embodiment of cool.

Today, both cool and the high-end sports car market have changed. Ferrari no longer offers the most exclusive super car, that honor goes to VAG’s Bugatti division. Volkswagen has also turned Lamborghini from an oddball poster child to a maker of super cars that are as great to drive as they are to look at. Not only have those blasts from the past put on a new shine in competing with Ferrari for the leading mystique of exclusivity and wealth, but new contenders have arisen who have in some cases eclipsed the Italian standard bearer for balls-out lust worthiness and technical achievement in being amazing. And at the same time, Ferrari has been building an AWD shooting brake. Hell, the company hasn’t even built a mid-engine car with 12 cylinders in I don’t know how many years.

It’s not the case that Ferrari doesn’t still matter, but do you think that the marque still carries the same cachet that it once did?

Image: owap.so

Hooniverse Asks- What Car or Truck Would You Pick to Drive… Forever?

Robert Emslie October 9, 2014 Hooniverse Asks


I have a buddy who at one time bought – and sold – a whole bunch of really interesting but budget-minded cars- things like Sprites and GT6’s and Lotus Elans, when they weren’t so dear. He’d pick up something on the cheap, and then put a little work into it, making it nice and all so that he could drive it for a while, then he’d sell the car. I asked him why he didn’t keep any of these really cool cars and he laid something on me that has stuck ever since. What he said was that he had experienced this particular model, and having done so was now selling it to raise the cash to buy some new automotive experience.

Not everybody is like my friend. Some people in fact, are happy to find a car and stick with it, sometimes amassing so many miles that they enter the record books. That’s the case with our friend above – Irv Gordon – who has done an amazing 3,000,000 miles in his 1966 Volvo P1800. Now, if you’re going to pledge your fidelity to one marque and model, I think you could do far worse than a Volvo P1800, but perhaps that might not be everyone’s cup of high-mileage tea.

Consider if you were going to invest in a monogamous relationship with a car or truck, what would be the criteria for a happy life together? What do you think would be the perfect car for you to drive… forever?


Image: TFLCar

Hooniverse Asks- Rear-facing or Side-by-side, What’s the Best Big Wagon Rear Seat?

Robert Emslie October 8, 2014 Hooniverse Asks


Quick quiz- how many wagons or wagon-esque vehicles sold today offer rear-facing third-row seats? Quick, quick! Okay, another question- how many offer side-facing seats? Yeah, both of those are pretty much the proprietorship of a bygone era.

Due to the vast production numbers of cars and trucks over the past century or so however, we are still blessed with a decent contingent of wagons and trucks that offer one or the other of these amazing seating arrangements. The question is, which one is the best? I remember our family’s Montego wagon from back when I was a kid. There was nothing better than sitting in the rear-most row, facing out the tailgate and watching the world recede from view. If I had such hindsight today, I’d be a wiser, happier man.

Side-by-side seats on the other hand allowed for more bodies, albeit about the same amount of legs, as the rear-facing option. Seeing though as it’s a form commonly found on Land Rovers, Land Cruisers, etc, it adds the pretense of being carried off on a safari, and not just to post-soccer pizza. Each of these forms is, for the most part, gone from the factory option list, and that is sad. Oh sure, there are plenty of SUVs and ‘Crossovers’ that offer third rows, but those all face forward. What’s the fun in that? What do you think is the better of the old school options – rear-facing, or side-by-side?

Image: Daddytypes.com


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