Monthly Archives: September 2014

Future Honda is a thing of the past

Action packed!

Insight out and about

We encountered a bullet-shaped first generation Honda Insight on the freeway the other day and found it truly inspiring.  Because  we’ve completed our first anniversary at Feral Cars, we figured we’d cut ourselves some slack by covering a car that is newer than our standard 22+ years old rule.   Honda’s Jetsons-style two-seater was a noble experiment, a truly avant-garde take on what a pioneering hybrid car should be. And fender skirts were standard equipment!

Spelling it out for you

Spelling it out for you

It was hand built for seven years, starting in 1999, in the same plant as the Acura NSX supercar and like the NSX, was a test bed for the use of advanced, lightweight materials; it weighed a mere 1,850 pounds, less than half the avoirdupois of a Civic of the era. Of course, the fact that it was so light and was propelled by a combination of electricity and a three cylinder one liter motor and had an aerodynamic body with a drag coefficient lower than a Lamborghini Murcielago’s was a formula for record breaking fuel economy.  In fact, according to the EPA, the original Insight is the most fuel efficient non-EV to have been sold in the U.S. in the past quarter century: 49 mpg/61 mpg city/highway, 53 mpg combined. It’s not uncommon for Insights to go 600 miles between fill-ups.

Insight Out!

George Jetson,  your car has been and gone

We’re completely convinced that first gen Insights  — not the more conventional looking current Insight, a Prius knock-off that has just been axed — is going to be a collector car in years to come.  There are quite a few to choose from right here.  Our advice is to pick one up before the cost is, er, out of sight.

Wind is one of the the big three, along with earth and fire.

Earth? Check! Wind? Check! Fire? Let’s hope not.

For your viewing pleasure we offer an original U.S. Insight commercial from back in 1998 that co-stars an old VW Microbus.  If you’ve got some time on your hands, watch this 13+ minute introductory film that, alas, is in Japanese but we think it’s inspiring, just the same.  Domo arigato! / どうもありがとう

 If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com.  Include your name, location of the car and some thoughts about the vehicle and we’ll look into getting it posted

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wind is one of the the big three, along with earth and fire.

Wind is one of the the big three, along with earth and fire.

Postwarriors: “the greatest generation” revisited

After having been so rudely interrupted by Pearl Harbor, domestic auto production resumed in 1946. GM, Ford, Chrysler and the independents — Packard, Studebaker, Nash, Hudson — had spent the war years building tanks, planes and whatever was needed to ensure victory over the Axis powers. This United Auto Workers song gives an encapsulated history of the union’s efforts to organize Ford Motor and to rally behind the war effort.  It really speaks volumes about that extraordinary time.

Delightfullly delovely

Delightfullly delovely and, yes, that’s an AMC Hornet aft of its stern

Initial postwar cars were, essentially, carry overs from the 1942 model year as was this ’47 or ’48 DeSoto sedan we found the other day  mouldering away and dragging its tail a bit.  It’s impressive in terms of sheer mass and presence — the roof being more than 5′ 6″ above the road) and that front grill is straight out of the deco age.

Bulbosity

Bulbosity sans filler cap

We think it just hangs around the eastern fringe of Hollywood hoping to be cast in a remake of a  film noir of the era like Dead Reckoning starring George Clooney in the Bogart role and Scarlett Johansson in the part Lizabeth Scott (born Emma Matzo — no kidding!)  created.  Hard core hip-hopper culture devotees should check on this “grill.” Surely, it will soon be the envy of L’il Wayne.

Thrill grill

Thrill grill

DeSoto was an object of middle class aspirations to move up a notch from lower class Dodge but stopping short of the old money subtext underpinning the upmarket Chrysler.  The back end on this one seems to have given way though it may have been intentionally lowered. Tough guys know that a few stiffs in the trunk tend to make a car ride on the low side and draw suspicion which some might think a “dead giveaway.”

Sophie Tucker, your Uber is here.

“Sophie Tucker, your Uber car has arrived.”

In an earlier post we covered this ’49 Packard Custom 8, photographed by Feral Cars Field Scout Davin Seay.  It, too, seems to have been designed by adherents of the  pontoon school of styling back in New Deal days.  Packard was a car for patricians, Cadillac being for the nouveau riche as well as for prosperous, yet showy, ethnic types. While a DeSoto could be had for far less than a Packard, Chevrolet was very much an entry level play.

Heavy Chevy

Heavy Chevy

We’re just nuts about the patina on this, apparently, untouched mid-line ’48 Chevrolet Fleetmaster sedan. It’s noteworthy that all the trim pieces, both bright and body-colored, are right where they should be and all are in undamaged, original condition.  We do think those whitewalls and the chrome wheel trim rings are un peu de trop for a car with such unassuming working class roots.  Then, again, maybe they’re a reflection of hopes for upward mobility during that ever so optimistic post war era.

Medicaremobile

Qualifies for Medicare

The origins of the brand names of these three cars bear addressing.  Packard, the oldest marque here, was founded in Warren, Ohio in 1899 by brothers  James Ward Packard and William Doud Packard.  Chevrolet came next, founded next in 1911. The car was initially a partnership between former Fiat and Buick race car driver Louis Chevrolet (b.1878 in the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel) and GM founder Billy Durant, then on the outs with the company, to build a low priced Ford competitor.

DeSoto is, strictly, the product of marketing.  The name on Chrysler’s one-step-down (from Chrysler, itself) and two-steps-up (from Plymouth and Dodge) marque was derived from Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. This was an obvious attempt to mimic Cadillac, named in 1902 after the French explorer who 200 years earlier, founded Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit.  While he’s credited for being the first Westerner to see the Mississippi River back in 1541, de Soto’s resume also includes the destruction of the Inca civilization, introducing plagues of fatal diseases to the New World, not to mention the wholesale massacre of indigenous people.  And you thought Jeep’s Cherokee is an example of corporate insensitivity!

Hernando's ride away

Hernando’s rideaway

Badging on our ’48 DeSoto is a mid-century vamp on Hernanado de Soto’s family coat of arms.  That’s a profile of the fun-loving conquistador, himself, above a stylized representation of his crest.  Class! See?

DeSoto, Packard, Chevrolet and lots of other makes are chronicled in this Noire Car video guide with a very ‘cool school’ vibe.

We sincerely urge you to purchase this extended wheelbase 1946 DeSoto Custom that has only 76,000 miles.  You’ll make the $19K asking price back in a few weeks by renting out this 7-passenger party van of its day for weddings, bar mitzvahs and bank robberies.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com.  Include your name, location of the car and some thoughts about the vehicle and we’ll look into getting it posted

 

 

BMW, PDA*

*Pre Douchebag Anschluss

Boxy lady!

Boxy lady! ’72 2002

It’s certainly not our place or intent to engage in wholesale character assassination and, we hasten to add, some of our best friends drive contemporary BMW automobiles. In fact, we like these cars; it’s some of their drivers with whom we have a beef.  We have no gripe with anyone’s choice of branded transport, Hummers excepted, but it’s a demonstrable fact that a significant percentage of BMW drivers tend to act in an anti-social manner.  To wit, we have a routine that takes us into a crosswalk everyday and invariably, BMW drivers speed up so as not to be inconvenienced by stopping to spare human life while drivers of other makes dutifully apply the brakes. We encountered such a person just the other day at a different intersection; he seemed lost in conversation on the phone which he held to his ear. (What? They don’t equip these things with a Bluetooth interface ?) He blithely barreled through the intersection, making a right turn on a red light, oblivious to the people attempting to cross the street.  When one of them had the temerity to bang a fist on his precious Bimmer’s hindquarters, its Bluetoothless pilot became infuriated, made an illegal u-turn and caught up with the outraged fist banger and verbally berated the, heretofore, imperiled pedestrian.  His actions and vituperous tone (“YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO BANG ON MY CAR!”) reflect a droit du seigneur attitude endemic to many BMW drivers. Those would be the ones who think that their “ultimate driving machine” exempts them from having to act in a quasi-civil manner.

Plain, not fancy

Plain, not fancy

Our crosswalk theory is borne out by actual scientific research which concludes that, yes, “BMW drivers were far less likely to stop for a pedestrian who had just entered a crosswalk” and another study which “found men between the ages of 35 and 50 driving blue BMWs were  most likely to be reported as having engaged in road-rage behaviors such as aggressive driving and swearing.”  The Urban Dictionary even has a definition of BMW Douche.   We’ll let you read that for yourself.

Upright citizen

Upright citizen

But we’re not here to beat up a sector of the driving public so reviled that their haters have a popular dedicated Facebook page. Our purpose is to celebrate BMWs which, in the past, were delightful, sporty, unpretentious, beautifully made cars, most notably the 2002 model, produced between 1968 and 1976.  The very basic “three box” styling was certainly unassuming  but its brilliant handling and feisty performance gave BMW a big boost with savvy consumers.  The idea was revolutionary and paved the way for the storied 3 series that built on the acceptance of the 2002. Revolutions often start with the best of intentions; the excesses that followed this one have put us in the bind in which we find ourselves today. We like cars, it’s the people who drive them with whom we have a problem.

Bangle buttless

Bangle buttless

It’s difficult to find unmolested BMW 2002s these day as they’ve typically been modified with flatulent aftermarket exhaust systems and fender flares to accommodate fat tires and trick wheels.  We, have, however encountered some original examples which we’re delighted to share as reminders of a time when BMWs — and their drivers — were celebrated rather than reviled.

Towards the end of their production 2002s were equipped with energy absorbing bumpers to comply with new new Federal safety standards; their inelegant placement tends to conjure up thoughts of Tonka Toys or a car made of Lego pieces.  The 3 series debuted in 1975 and, initially, carried on the same no-frills attitude of its predecessor. But as the years rolled by things evolved in terms of more convoluted styling, bigger motors, higher weight and they were crammed full of electronics. More importantly, they appealed to some drivers whose approach to civility could be characterized as ‘challenged.’  Pass the hair gel!

Bimmer's 'boingy' bumper

Bimmer’s ‘boingy’ bumper

To its credit, BMW did try to rekindle the spirit of the 2002 with the 318ti hatchback that was introduced in the ’90s.  It was shortened, decontented and equipped with a smaller 4 cylinder motor.  Unfortunately, it was a sales failure and discontinued, plausibly, because it had minimal douche appeal.

Just before the 'doucheluge'

318ti: They tried

We’re not trying to beat a dead horse and, certainly, the BMW ‘horse’ is alive and kicking with first six months sales in 2014 12% higher than last year’s. Arch rival Audi is not, however, above the fray.  Their current Nice Performance commercial speaks volumes without spelling things out too overtly.   BMW, for its part, cashes in on its storied 2002 heritage in this commercialto introduce the smaller 2 series.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that members of the Baader-Meinhoff Gang who terrorized West Germany in the ’70s favored BMW 2002s.   Paranoid Polizei of the time considered anyone who drove a 2002 to be suspicious and the  BMW acronyn was perverted to stand for “Baader-Meinhof Wagen.”  This video explains the phenomenon most wonderfully and, then, dig this still from the film Baader-Meinhof Komplex.

Das verecht Banhof-Meinhof Wagen!

Die authentische Banhof-Meinhof Wagen!

Full disclosure, we drove one from 1970 to 1992 and it’s sorely missed.  Prices for good surviving or restored examples have skyrocketed.  You can browse here but we’d be surprised if you really found a bargain but one never knows.

 If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com.  Include your name, location of the car and some thoughts about the vehicle and we’ll look into getting it posted