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Hooniverse Asks- It’s Halloween, What’s Your Favorite Candy Treat?

Robert Emslie October 31, 2014 Hooniverse Asks

iStock_000014421070Small-Halloween-Candy

Hey Hoons, today we’re going to eschew the expected auto-related question for something little more toothsome. That’s because today is Halloween, and that is the candiest day of the year! Now, I don’t have a sweet tooth, but I have been known to nosh on a Three Musketeers or Mars Bar now and again. If you’re a fan of treats over tricks, I’ll be that you have done so as well.

Most of us are probably of an age that means we’re on the giving side of the Halloween candy equation rather than the receiving, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t sample the inventory, you know, as an important bit of quality control. If you see All Hallow’s Eve as an opportunity to indulge in a little confection consumption or chocolate chomping, I’ll bet you have a preferred choice, after all you probably bought them. What is your favorite Halloween treat?

 

Image: GentechDentist

Hooniverse Asks- What Are The Gas Prices in Your Neck of the Woods?

Robert Emslie October 30, 2014 Hooniverse Asks

gas_prices_comic

So I heard T Boone Pickens interviewed on NPR this week and he was lamenting the plummeting price per-barrel of oil, complaining that U.S. producers were drilling too much. You know what I say to that? Boo-freakin’-hoo T. Boone, go blame Tina Fey, because she was the on who was telling everybody to drill-baby-drill.

The truth is that – at least here in ‘Merica – we’re seeing a bit of a respite from ever climbing gas prices. I don’t know if it really is that U.S. producers are pumping an excess out of the ground like Pickens avers, or if the Oil Companies just forgot which way was up, but I appreciate the lesser impact on my meager funds every time I fill up these days. You know it won’t last forever though, so I guess we should all just enjoy it while we can – and maybe all go out and buy Hummers or Lamborghini Diablos or something.

I’m not just interested in my own fill-up financials however, that would be pretty damn selfish of me. No, I’m also eager to learn how you all are faring, and what the price at the pump is in your area. If you’re outside the U.S., have you seen prices decline in the past month or so? And if you’re here, where T. Boone Pickens is pissed he’s not getting more of your money, how much are you spending of late?

Image: US Message-board

Hooniverse Asks- What’s Your Favorite Factory Tuner Brand?

Robert Emslie October 29, 2014 Hooniverse Asks

Badges

Admit it, you like to supersize your easy meal, don’t you? When they ask if you want extra butter on your popcorn at the movies, or if you want to pay extra to watch the flick in 3-D, you say sure I would. Standard is for regular people. Ordinary, well, it’s for the ordinary. And you, my friend, are out of the ordinary. That’s why, when it comes to your car, you demand something a little more special. Something that befits your square peg in a round hole demeanor. And that’s why you only go for editions that have been breathed upon by factory tuners.

Of sure, there are plenty of aftermarket machinery masseuses out there, but you, wise that you are, prefer your unique and above the workaday ride to come with a full factory warranty. After all, you’re exclusive, not stupid. Factory tuners exist for almost every brand and breed, and some have even gained fame that exceeds that of their patron brands. What I’d like to know today is which of those factory meddlers you most kitten to. Which is your favorite factory tuner?

Images: Wikipedia

Hooniverse Asks- Do You Think Volkswagen’s Phaeton Will Fare Any Better in the U.S. A Second Time?

Robert Emslie October 28, 2014 Hooniverse Asks

Phaeton

Let’s start out here by noting that Volkswagen literally means ‘people’s car.’ In socio-political terms when someone references the ‘people’ they are generally talking about the plebeian masses, the proletariat, the great un-washed. Volkswagen made its name catering to this modest-earning but hard-working audience, and until this century seemed content to do so. What happened to change that was that Mercedes Benz made a move down-market, offering up cars that directly competed with VW’s bread and butter fare, and hence – seeking a tit-for-tat response – VW’s then-chief, Ferdinand Piëch, decided to move his brand up-market, to make Benz feel the heat.

One of the results of Piëch’s plan was the Phaeton, an über-sedan that became the first Volkswagen car to break the $100K price barrier. The cars were meticulously designed and engineered; they featured innovative accoutrements and drivetrains – W12 anyone? – and they proved that VW could play in the big leagues. There was just one tiny problem, and that was the VW badge that each and every Phaeton had to carry. That was for most, a deal killer, at least here in the U.S.. The Phaeton was unceremoniously yanked from the U.S. market in 2006, after only three years of lackluster sales. It was, by all measures, a flop.

Of course, they say if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again, and that’s just what Volkswagen is reportedly doing with the Phaeton, with a planned 2018 or 2019 relaunch of the range-topper here in the States. Considering the monumental depreciation and reliability issues that the first round of Phaetons faced here in the States, what I’d like from you today is your prognostication as to VW’s chances of success with this next attempt. Do you think VW’s Phaeton will fare any better a second time?

Image: Wikipedia

Hooniverse Asks- What was the ’70s’ Most Egregious 5-MPH bumper?

Robert Emslie October 27, 2014 Hooniverse Asks

Montego

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was established to create regulations intended to increase the safety of road-going motor vehicles, and the streets and highways which they ply. The regs are frequently changing: old requirements like the demand for sealed beam headlights falling by the wayside, while new ones such as the requirement of backup cameras come almost every year. One regulation that ironically wasn’t a safety concern, but one that was driven by the auto insurance industry, was that of the 5-mph bumper standard.

Enacted on April 9, 1971, the first federal bumper standard took effect with 1973 models when 5 mph front-into-flat-barrier and 2.5 mph rear-into-barrier requirements were introduced. In 1974 the rear impact speed was also increased to 5 mph. The regulation was modified in 1982, reducing the standard to 2.5 mph front and rear. This was done based upon research that indicated a minimal increase in body repairs outweighed by a significant decrease in the cost of bumper repairs.

Today we still have the 2.5-mph standard for all cars sold in the U.S., and all cars sold here are pretty much designed from the outset to meet that standard. That however, wasn’t the case when the 5-mph standards were enacted, and most cars had to adapt to the new requirements rather than be wholly redesigned around them. That resulted in the bumpers that we all know and loathe, ones that acquired nice names like ‘diving board’ and ‘battering ram.’ Most of those early attempts to meet the law were truly terrible, and today what I want is your opinion as to which one was the worst.

Image: Attitude Custom Painting

Hooniverse Asks- What’s the Best Bit of Automotive Knowledge That’s Totally Unneeded Today?

Robert Emslie October 24, 2014 Hooniverse Asks

Vintage Garage

Hey, do you know how to de-coke an engine? How about how to unlock car bumpers that have become entangled? These were both valuable skills, 60 years ago. Today they are both anachronisms, and soon to join them will be things like points adjustment, brake pulsing, and double clutching a non-synchromesh transmission.

The automotive world marches on, and as it does certain aptitudes and activities get left by the roadside. Some of them, like the ability to successfully synchronize multiple independent carburetors, still seem a laudable skill. Others, such as remembering to include the spare when you rotate your tires are woefully out of date, but are still a cool way to make the kids feel inadequate.

I’ll bet that most of you are too young to have actually experienced such out of date automotive knowledge, but I’m sure – being car nuts – that you have over time become aware of its existence, and have formulated an opinion as to which is cool and which is lame. Today, I’d like you to share what totally useless piece of automotive knowledge is still totally cool today.

Image: Hemmings

Hooniverse Asks- Busses or Rail, Which is the Least Objectionable Anti-Car?

Robert Emslie October 23, 2014 Hooniverse Asks

denver_light_rail

Next month I’ll be attending the Los Angeles International Auto Show media preview at the LA Convention Center, which is located just south of LA’s downtown financial district. And while this is a car show, I won’t be taking a car to get there. Instead, I’ll be taking three rail lines of LA’s burgeoning Metro system to get from my suburban paradise to the convention center’s front door. The whole trip, including the drive from my house to the closest station with free parking, usually takes almost exactly an hour.

Why you might ask would I take public transportation? Well, one of the main reasons is that rush hour traffic on LA roads is something akin to stuffing sausage, only with cars. The other is that LA’s Metro trains – whether the subway or the many light rail options – are generally clean, safe, and fast, and in the case of the convention center, it takes me where I want to go. I wish I could say the same for the Metro Buses, but sadly, they are a whole ‘nother ball game, and usually one that smells of pee by the third inning.

That’s not to say that busses don’t have their place in the mass transit scheme of things, it’s just been my experience that the trains are a better way to go. Of course the trains don’t go to all those many places and the big benefit of busses is that they can change routes as needed, while trains are pretty much wedded to their predetermined paths. Have you had much experience with public transportation? If so, which have you found to be the best to get you from point A to point B? Have trains proven acceptable in their routing choices? Or do the busses do a better job? If you can’t drive, what’s the best mass transit alternative in your book?

Image: Metroplanning.org

Hooniverse Asks- What’s Your Favorite Hot Rod Wagon?

Robert Emslie October 22, 2014 Hooniverse Asks

mercedes-124-hammer

The Station Wagon is named for its originally intended function; the ability to offer enough room to transport passengers and their luggage from the train depot to a final destination such as a vacation hotel. It’s ironic that today the station wagon is a rare commodity, having been replaced for the most part by something called a ‘Sport Utility.’

Now, I would aver that most sport utilities are not very sporty, although I will admit that most offer a good bit of utility. You know what really represents the term sport utility? Why, a hot rod wagon, of course. Now, you know that the longroof already has the utility part down pat, owing to the capacious space behind the seats and typical roof rack for even more getting-it-there ability. But what about the sport part? Well, there have been – and continue to be – high performance versions of your tried and true family haulers, and they hence earn the right to be called true Sport Utilities.

If you think about it, we love fast cars. We are also, for whatever reason, pretty sweet on wagons. Put the two together and we’re all pretty much in hog heaven. Not only that, but we can get those hogs to the bacon-making place PDQ in our hot rod wagons. If you had the need of RPT (Rapid Pig Transport) what would be your preferred ride? What is your favorite hot rod wagon?

Image: Carficianados

Hooniverse Asks- What is Your car’s Achille’s Heel?

Robert Emslie October 21, 2014 Hooniverse Asks

achilles2

Stephen Wright has this bit where he says that in school they told him that practice makes perfect, and then later that nobody is perfect. This led Wright to stop practicing. It’s true that even the best of us have our foibles, and when it comes to cars and trucks, there can often be one particular negative aspect that can make you facepalm out of frustration for its singular spoilage of an otherwise competent ride.

Consider if you will the Mazda Miata. It’s the perfect car, right? Well, did you know that the MX5 Miata can’t hold a pair of golf bags in its trunk? It’s true. It can carry two golfers in its tight but capable passenger compartment, but that trunk, totally incapable of letting them bring both their bags along. How Mazda allowed such a glaring oversight is beyond comprehension.

That’s just one instance of a car with impeccable bonafides suffering from a singular flaw, an Achille’s heel as it were. What we’d like to hear today is other instances – you Miata owners can sit this one out as we already feel your shame – of cars and trucks that likewise have a flaw or missing feature that casts a pall over an otherwise enjoyable ride. It’s time to open up and get personal, and tell us, what is your car’s Achille’s heel?

Image: betterlivingthroughbeowolf

Hooniverse Asks- What Could be the Next Jeep or Humvee?

Robert Emslie October 20, 2014 Hooniverse Asks

VintageJeep

As most of you know, in Jeep nomenclature, CJ stands for Civilian Jeep, denoting the model’s decommissioned status. That switch from wartime tool to farmer’s – and eventually off-road enthusiast’s – weapon of choice is the right way to make peacetime use of war effort hardware. So venerable is the Jeep as an icon of both WWII and its civilian role that when the Humvee entered service a lot of people wondered if it too would also make the leap to civilian duty.

The Humvee (short for High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle) was originally built by AM General, and that company did market a civilian edition, colloquially known as the Hummer and favored by forest services, fire departments, and Ah-nold. The Hummer’s civilian makeover wasn’t nearly as simple as the Jeep’s, and once GM bought the marque they diluted the brand by adding smaller poseurs until gas prices and competitive forces put the brand out of business.

As they said in Casablanca, we’ll always have the Jeep and that former Army brat, to this day, still seems to have its mojo intact. But that’s not to say we don’t need a new former military man (or woman) in our driveways. Today’s army still rolls on the Humee, but pretenders to its throne are waiting in the wings. There’s Lockheed Martin’s Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), as well as options from Navistar and the Big Three. Do we need another military-civilian crossover? If so, what do you think would be the best candidate?

Image: Episodes of Army Life in WWII

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