Mustang Parts
   Carrying Saleen wheels and Bullitt wheels.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Five Hundred for Mom

My mom's last two cars were Buicks, and both turned junky before their time. The latest, a Century, started to rust through the rocker panels and lower doors, and had a drivers seat cushion that had completely collapsed, at the early age of 90,000 miles. The last straw came last week, when the Buick was whacked by an inattentive driver on Southfield road, and was unceremoniously totaled by the insurance company.

I started looking around at what was available. Historically a GM family, my parents told me they would be open to a Ford product as well, but please no Chrysler. The requirements: a soft riding mid or full sized sedan, less than 24,000 miles, around $15,000. We looked at Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Malibu, Mercury Milan, Ford Five Hundred.

My mom decided she liked the Five Hundred the best, because it had a very high seating position compared to the others. I think she was sick of Buick, also, after the qualify fiasco of her Century. She also was amused at the size of the trunk--"we could go camping in there!"

The Five Hundreds we found depreciated so badly that we got a pretty good deal: a 2006 with 20,000 miles, certified pre-owned, with side airbags, leather, automatic climate control, and adjustable pedals for about $15,000. It is a lot of car for the money.

Things I like about the Ford Five Hundred:
  • Huge interior but a moderately sized exterior, huge trunk
  • High seating position
  • Depreciation means lots of features for not much money
  • High safety ratings from NHTSA and IIHS
  • Adjustable pedals
  • Good looking 18" wheels
  • Good NVH, even over railroad crossing
  • Good ride/handling balance, not too firm or too squishy
  • Decent fuel economy for such a large car
  • Six speed transmission
  • Real rear seat headrests
  • Smooth sided, understated exterior (but most say much too understated)
  • Four wheel disc brakes with traction control
  • Good overall quality record so far
Things I don't:
  • Noticeable body roll when cornering
  • Weak sounding radio
  • A bit underpowered
  • Gear selector only has D and L gear choices
  • Bland interior design
  • According to Consumer Reports, the brake system is less reliable than average
If you don't mind sleepy styling and modest acceleration, used Five Hundreds/Montegos are hard to beat in value for comfortable, roomy, safe transportation.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Another sign of the apocalypse?

Starbucks is going to close 600 stores. Surely the end is nigh.

I remember a Simpsons episode where Bart is walking through a mall, and every other store is either a Starbucks or has a sign that says "Coming Soon: Starbucks".

Oh well, at least we still have Krispy Kreme...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Silly Camaro Gauges

Photos of the production version of the 2010 Camaro are out, and it looks like GM has retained the silly retro muscle car gauges they had on the concept vehicle. In front of the shifter, and down low away from the driver's forward line of sight, are four analog pods showing engine torque, battery voltage, coolant temperature, and oil pressure.

Photo borrowed from Autoblog

This is a strange idea. If the information is important, it should be at eye level. Many high performance cars have important or interesting information (turbo boost) shown on pods mounted to the A-pillar. If the information isn't that important, then use the space for something that is, like a slot for your cool retro Ray-Ban sunglasses. Who really tracks battery voltage? Either you have enough to crank or you don't. And torque, who needs a torque meter when you have a tachometer and a throttle to give you the same basic information?

A better idea would have been to integrate an accelerometer display into the IP, so the driver could lay down some rubber and then see how many g's they managed to pull.

McCain Throws MI Under The Bus

Today John McCain appeared in Warren at the GM Tech Center. According to the Detroit News, when asked if California should be allowed to set its own carbon emissions standards, he said
"It's hard for me to tell the states they can't set their own standards. ... At the end of the day, I think states should make their own decisions."
According to the News, this is a flip-flop from something he said in Ohio, where he supposedly said that he favors a national standard.

Even liberal Democrat John Dingell gets it:
"I don't think much of the idea of several sets of standards that the auto industry has to make and I think if you're trying to destroy the auto industry, that's a pretty good way of beginning," said Rep. John Dingell, a Dearborn Democrat who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee. (Associated Press)
Someone needs to sit McCain down and have a good hard talk about economics with him. Fragmented regulatory standards are a huge shadow tax on businesses that have an interstate presence. Imagine what it would be like if UPS had to deliver packages a different way depending on if they were going east or west of the Mississipi.

Regional standards create big headaches (and costs) for the automakers. They have to make complicated plans to comply with each state's mandates while still planning product development and production for the EPA-only states. Product mix may have to be dramatically different, with unintended consequences like shortages of small cars in some regions and oversupply of trucks in others.

It looks like McCain is looking to trade votes in the midwest battleground states, which have a large automotive industry presence, for votes in the "green states", which are Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington. I hope his political calculus is right, because Michigan and Ohio seem pretty important right now.

Here's a better idea. The green states should encourage their citizens to choose more fuel efficient vehicles by taxing fuel more. The EPA should set a single national standard for fuel economy. And there should be as few fuel formulations permitted as absolutely necessary, preferably two: summer and winter. (Summer blend gas has fewer light hydrocarbons to reduce smog-forming evaporative emissions.)

Video: Top Gear Blind

This is a neat clip from Top Gear where a blind guy races around the test track with Jeremy Clarkson shouting directions in the passenger seat. He makes it onto the time board, beating two previous drivers.

Blind Man Outraces Female Driver - Watch more free videos

Thursday, July 17, 2008

My First Sponsor --

When I started this blog, I didn't know if anyone would bother reading it, but I knew I wanted to have some fun, share my opinion on the state of the automotive industry, and sharpen my writing skills. I definitely did not think anyone would want to advertise with me, but now someone has.

As you can see from the banner flying at the top of my blog, I have picked up a sponsor, American Muscle sells performance parts of all kinds for Mustangs, from appearance to powertrain, wheels to engine chips.

I don't have a Mustang, so I haven't ordered anything from them, and I can't speak to their quality. But from what I can tell they look like a solid outfit. They recently had a charity picnic where they raised $4230 for Homes For Our Troops, which is an organization which helps wounded veterans by upgrading their houses to be more accessible.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Video: Mechanical Binary Adder

This is really cool... a guy builds a binary adding machine out of wood which shows how base-2 arithmetic works. It is really basic, but it does a good job of showing how carry operations are done in binary, and what happens if you overflow.

Marble Based Calculator - Watch more free videos

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Video: Motorcycle Texting

This sounds like it is from India or Pakistan. A guy is laying down on his motorbike, on the highway, texting.

Guy Lays Down To Text On Motorcycle - Watch more free videos

Video: How Not To Drive Thru

This guy's camper is too tall, and he knocks the roof of the bank drive through down with it. I hope he wasn't hurt, it looks like the roof sheared the side of his door as it came down.

How Not To Use The Drive Through ATM - Watch more free videos

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Hijab And The Muffin Top

Today I took my family to the Detroit Zoo. At the excellent kids playground (near the Penguinarium), I saw a sight common to Metro Detroit: a young Muslim family. The mom was wearing a hijab dress, which covered her hair, arms, and legs, but kept her face open, similar to the photo below. Muslim Mom had a playful side to her otherwise very conservative outfit, she had fancy checkerboard shoes.

Exhibit A: Example of Hijab

If you pause to think about it, there is some wisdom to this style of dress, even if it is very alien and threatening to us Americans. By being so explicitly modest, the Muslim woman forces you to look at her face--you can't talk to her chest, or any other physical part of her. In other words, you are forced to consider her as an individual, not as a sexual object. I don't think this is the case, by they way, with the more restrictive forms of muslim garb, like the burqa, which by hiding the face of the woman seems to me to nearly dehumanize her.

The Muslim woman, in her modest dress, really stood out because she was surrounded by average blue collar Americans, on a sunny 80 degree day. That means women in flip flops, tight shorts, tank tops, many of which were too large to pull off such revealing clothing gracefully. Not to mention all sorts of tattoos, muffin tops, whale tails, butt cleavage, and so on. What does the sloppy, revealing clothing say about the women who wear it? Doesn't it say, "I don't care what I look like as long as I am comfortable", or maybe "go ahead and look, this is my best asset"?

And what about the competition this sets up? The thin, pretty women in revealing clothes will be compared, by men and by women, to the not-so-thin and not-so-pretty women. But the modest women are competing on a higher playing field, they have to be judged more by what they say and do, not by their physical shape.

Exhibit B: (mild examples)

Given the choice between seeing hijab and d├ęcolletage at the Zoo, I would pick hijab. And I'm not a Muslim!*

Update: I am not saying that women should be required by law to adhere to some dress code, as some of the commenters seem to assume. I am saying people should be more thoughtful about what their mode of dress portrays.

*In fact, the rulers of Iran would like to "purge" some of my "Zionist" relatives.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Video: Brutal Accident Caught On Traffic Camera

This is painful to watch. An SUV runs a red light and side impacts a pickup truck. I would expect that some people were seriously injured or killed in this accident.

Jeep Ignores Red Light - Watch more free videos

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Roku Soundbridge Rocks

I recently got a Roku Soundbridge. This is a wireless MP3 player with a large, easy to read text display that plugs into your audio/home theater system. It is a very well executed gadget, worked right right out of the box. It is one of the best gadgets I have ever owned, and has nicely replaced my CD changer.

The way the system works is that you run a streaming server on your Windows, MacOS, or Linux PC which indexes your MP3 collection and streams it on demand to the SoundBridge. iTunes and Windows Media Player already have the capability, or you can install a third party free server. The Soundbridge has a simple remote and an easy to navigate menu system, which you use to browse or search for music. It has a built in display, so you don't have to use your TV to see what you are doing, unlike some competor products. It talks wi-fi, so you don't have to run an ethernet cable to it.

The other really cool thing about the SoundBridge is that it can receive internet radio stations, without going through your computer. I use it to lisen to my local AM radio stations in static free digital glory.

I'm not shilling for Roku, just a satisfied customer.

Segways Of Doom

Buy a Segway. Paint it black. Now it's a S.W.A.T. Tactical Segway! (From web site, Chinese SWAT team training... on Segways?)

I'm not sure a real SWAT sniper would be shooting from a Segway...