Mustang Parts
   Carrying Saleen wheels and Bullitt wheels.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Neat Jeep Video

A group of young men decide to destroy a Jeep by running it off road. It seems to hold up quite well--if this isn't a Jeep ad, it should be. Check out the tire re-beading technique they use at around 2:30.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Automotive Angle of the SOTU Speech

A quick take on the policy proposals that the White House has posted as part of the State Of The Union Speech.



President Bush Will Ask Congress And America's Scientists, Farmers, Industry Leaders, And Entrepreneurs To Join Him In Pursuing The Goal Of Reducing U.S. Gasoline Usage By 20 Percent In The Next Ten Years – Twenty In Ten.

America Will Reach The President's Twenty In Ten Goal By:

  • Increasing The Supply Of Renewable And Alternative Fuels By Setting A Mandatory Fuels Standard To Require 35 Billion Gallons Of Renewable And Alternative Fuels In 2017 – Nearly Five Times The 2012 Target Now In Law. In 2017, this will displace 15 percent of projected annual gasoline use.
This sounds like increased mandatory ethanol mix, as well as possible mandates of biodiesel. Unless an open international market in ethanol and biodiesel is permitted, fuel prices will likely go up.
  • Reforming And Modernizing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards For Cars And Extending The Current Light Truck Rule. In 2017, this will reduce projected annual gasoline use by up to 8.5 billion gallons, a further 5 percent reduction that, in combination with increasing the supply of renewable and alternative fuels, will bring the total reduction in projected annual gasoline use to 20 percent.
Not much detail here, but likely it means "increase CAFE", which is a mixed bag. On one hand, it will make cars more expensive or less powerful. On the other hand, more regulation means more competitive advantage to the established players, and a steeper hill to climb for the Chinese.
  • Congress Must Reform CAFE For Passenger Cars. The Administration has twice increased CAFE standards for light trucks using an attribute-based method. An attribute-based system (for example, a size-based system) reduces the risk that vehicle safety is compromised, helps preserve consumer choice, and helps spread the burden of compliance across all product lines and manufacturers. Congress should authorize the Secretary of Transportation to apply the same kind of attribute-based method to passenger cars.
So cars would be graded approximately by weight (footprint = wheelbase x track) rather than all being required to average out to the same number. This is a smarter way to do CAFE (a smarter way to do a stupid thing) because it takes size into account. However, we don't know yet how hard the new rule will push on fuel economy.

The President's Plan Will Help Confront Climate Change By Stopping The Projected Growth Of Carbon Dioxide Emissions From Cars, Light Trucks, And SUVs Within 10 Years.

The President's Plan To Strengthen America's Energy Security Also Includes:

  • Stepping Up Domestic Oil Production In Environmentally Sensitive Ways
Good. Supply and demand--reduce demand, but also increase supply. Require more ethanol mixing, but reduce the price of the major component to offset some of the pain.
  • Doubling The Current Capacity Of The Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) To 1.5 Billion Barrels By 2027. Doubling the SPR alone will provide approximately 97 days of net oil import protection, enhancing America's ability to respond to potential oil disruptions.
Interesting. The SPR is not just used to control market prices, and Bush didn't seem to suggest that it would be. Is he preparing for another possible embargo from the Arabs over war policy? The turmoil in the Persian Gulf caused by a war with Iran would certainly cause a huge spike in oil prices. Update: I did a little reading about the SPR, it only has a capacity of 700 million barrels, in underground caverns. To double it would take a long time.

So, overall it looks not too bad but also not great for the auto industry. CAFE pressure will increase, which will cause vehicles to be more expensive as more technology (hybrids, turbos, direct injection, etc.) is thrown at the problem. A quick answer will be to sell more cars with less powerful engines, so as a result the V6 and V8 options may become pricier. OTOH, CAFE will help keep the Chinese out longer.

Increased mandatory use of ethanol will cause fuel prices to go up (also corn) but may be offset by additional supply, if Congress agrees (unlikely). Increased fuel prices will encourage a mix of smaller vehicles--more pain for the midsize/large truck based SUVs, and fullsized pickup trucks.

Friday, January 19, 2007

CU Effed Up, Schooled By NHTSA

When Consumer's Union (Consumer Reports) reported that the majority of infant seats they tested failed a side impact crash test, NHTSA was horrified and sprang into action. They tested samples of the same car seats that CU was claiming failed--and they couldn't duplicate CU's results. NHTSA deduced that CU had tested an equivalent of a 70mph side impact, not a 38mph side impact.

“Our initial review of the Consumer Reports testing procedures showed a significant error in the manner in which it conducted and reported on its side-impact tests. The organization’s data show its side-impact tests were actually conducted under conditions that would represent being struck in excess of 70 mph, twice as fast as the group claimed. When NHTSA tested the same child seats in conditions representing the 38.5 mph conditions claimed by Consumer Reports, the seats stayed in their bases as they should, instead of failing dramatically.”
I have always been suspicious of Consumer Reports "scientific" methods--they don't reveal details of their testing, use tiny sample sizes, and inject (mostly liberal) politics into their conclusions. For example, CU apparently gives the same weight to a burnt out lightbulb on a new car as a non functioning ABS system--both are "problems". Obviously, one is major and one is not.

CU has retracted their report, but the damage has already been done to the car seat makers, who were pilloried by the local nightly news ("Your kids at risk! News at 11:00!"). Even worse,they may have convinced some people that their car seats are unsafe. I hope they get sued.

Here's a video of a re-test that NHTSA did of one of the "failed" car seats, at the actual speed of 38mph:

Here's a video of an unrestrained infant dummy:

(Please, don't be a dummy!)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Video: Car Curling, Or Maybe Hockey?

Funny/scary video from Portland. Icy street, apparently on an incline, clueless drivers. Add them up, and you get life size curling!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Imam: Beat Your Wife (Wives?) Carefully.

According to this authority, a Muslim may beat his wife (or wives?) but only if he is carefull--no broken bones, no bruises, don't hit the face, and not in front of the kids. Very progressive!

Question: when was the last time any Rabbi, Pastor, Priest, or Minister told you it was OK to beat your wife, and outlined the parameters of how it should be done?

Question: can a religion condone wife-beating and still be a "religion of peace"?

*Before you guys get all huffy on me, let me say that I don't believe that all Muslims are wife beaters. I am certain that some streams of Islam don't condone wife beating. But a sizeable portion of the Muslim world is still stuck in about the year 1200.

Ultimate Used Parts eBay Auction

Wow. Just wow. Check out this eBay auction for a collection of vintage cars and parts.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Ethanol: Corporate Welfare for Farmers

A large part of the political support for ethanol--for mixing requirements, CAFE credits, and outright subsidies--is old fashioned "special interest" pandering, nest feathering, corporate welfare.

One aspect of this farmer protection program is the import tariff on ethanol. Currently, ethanol imports are taxed at a whopping $0.54/gal (per gallon!). The effect of this is to protect the domestic ethanol producers, and to keep ethanol expensive. But it isn't the "family farm" that is being protected--the big winners are the huge producers of ethanol, corn, and seed--companies like Monsanto and Archer Daniels Midland.

This doesn't make much sense for the bigger picture. Ethanol derived from corn and soybeans is much less energy efficient than ethanol derived from sugarcane, according to a Wall Street Journal article I just read. Corn has an ethanol energy factor of 1.3 (1.3 BTU's out for every BTU it took to produce), while sugarcane has an efficiency of a whopping 8.

If our priorities are to reduce our use of oil, we should be working on getting the cheapest ethanol possible. I guess we'll find out what the priorities of the New Democrat Congress are soon enough--pork, or oil?

Winter Safety Gear

There have been some reminders recently of how dangerous nature can be, especially in winter, including the Kim family tragedy and heavy snowstorms and avalanches in Colorado.

Everyone should ideally carry a minimal safety kit in their car, which would support basic first aid care and short term shelter. A longer term kit is a must for anyone who lives in harsh or rural areas, where help may be days not hours away.

Since I am a suburban Detroiter, my car safety kit is pretty minimal, as far as supplies go. Some of the supplies I carry:
  • Fix-a-flat goo
  • Extending lug wrench
  • Reflective emergency blanket
  • An old waterproof coat with hood
  • An old pair of glove (also comes in handy for repairs)
  • Red road flares
  • First aid kit
  • Mag-lite D-cell LED flashlight (will run a looong time)
  • Leatherman multi-tool
  • Hand sanitizer
  • $50 cash
  • Spare headlight bulbs
  • Duct tape
  • Jumper cables
  • A few MREs
  • Bottled water (in glass)
After the James Kim story, I decided to add a few MRE's and water to my emergency trunk box, just in case I was stuck somewhere far away from rescue, but I doubt I'll ever need them.

Some day, when I set aside the time, I will do the legal paperwork to be able to legally carry my 1911 in my car. Around here, the sad truth is, there is more threat from uncivilized men than from avalanches.