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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 Others, such as remembering to include the spare when you rotate your tires are woefully out of date, but are still a cool way to make the kids feel inadequate.

I’ll bet that most of you are too young to have actually experienced such out of date automotive knowledge, but I’m sure – being car nuts – that you have over time become aware of its existence, and have formulated an opinion as to which is cool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

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

Robert Emslie October 17, 2014 Hooniverse Asks

roundabout-priority

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

toyota-crown-wagon-05

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

Isis

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

rolls

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

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